Psalm 114, 1 April 2018

This poem is all about the Exodus, the release from slavery in Egypt, and the transit to a new life across the Red Sea. There is no mention of resurrection, nor Easter of course. Indeed we read no reference to any divine influence until the very last verse. Was it, then, an April Fool’s Day virus that set Psalm 114 to be sung on 1 April, Easter Sunday?

Psalm board Gouda
Awaiting the psalm number in St Jan, Gouda NL

The psalm was written, of course, long before any thoughts of April fools or Easter. It celebrates freedom in any age, escape from bondage into a promised land, one flowing with of milk and honey. So Easter Sunday with its message of hope is an appropriate context for this song, as are many other situations of relief and thanksgiving for escapes from burdens of whatever hue to freedom and new beginnings.

Ps114 Louys incipit
Entry to Psalm 114 for five voices by Jean Louys (d. 1563), French.

Music for this song presents a slight challenge. Apart from many tempting but demanding early music settings (which, besides the detail shown above, must include those listed for Psalm 113 in the Vulgate numbering system) good refrains are few. There’s nothing enticing in our fairly extensive online Dropbox library, and nothing in Together in Song. The usually reliable New Century Hymnal invites us to tremble before God, while The Emergent Psalter asks us “What alarmed you that you fled?”  These are fine if you have time to explain the context and reasoning, but not to sing as musical gems in isolated splendour.

PFAS has the best bet with a South African refrain ‘Freedom is coming’. Verses will roll out to a tone similar to the tune. Singers welcome. Continue reading “Psalm 114, 1 April 2018”

Psalm 22 Good Friday 2018

This psalm appears on Good Friday due to verse 1, which Jesus quoted on the cross, and subsequent predictions:

My God, why have you forsaken me?

Much has been said in previous posts on this psalm.


The Good Friday observance is sometimes conducted with little or no music in a period of quiet contemplation.

This Sunday at South Woden, we revert to a setting in Together in Song (TiS 9) by Christopher Willcock SJ.

Best presented in that minimalist style, we have not called for massed voices of the ‘Singers in the South’. Anyone who wishes to sing a verse, please contact the Cantor.

Crystal Ball, Apr-Jun 2018

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

This ‘sticky’ post is intended for South Woden readers. Scroll down for weekly blog posts.

Subject to the choices of worship leaders, here are ideas for the Easter season and following months of 2018.

1 Apr. Ps 114. First up is a challenge. Nothing in my fairly extensive online Dropbox library, nothing in TiS, NCH asks us to tremble before God, TEP asks us “What alarmed you that you fled?” What a choice! PFAS has the best bet with a South African refrain ‘Freedom is coming’. Verses will run to a tone similar to the tune.

Psalm 133 in the Vespasian Psalter; British Library

8 Apr. Ps 133. Spanish swing reigns here with PFAS 133D, Miren que buono (O look in wonder) in the limelight. Fun.

15 Apr. Ps 4. Tempted to use TiS 2 with its easy refrain, but the Gelineau verse setting fails to grab me. NCH has interesting words and harmonies ahead of close competition from PFAS 4A, the sole offering in this source. A nice Malawian call-and-response appears in PFAS 4A alt but we use a home-grown tune.

22 Apr, Ps 23. Paul Kelly’s Meet me in the middle of the air, with young women’s voices.

29 Apr. Ps 22:25-31. This is not Good Friday with its wounded call of “Why have you forsaken me?” (v.1); it’s a different selection. TiS 727 ‘In the presence of your people’ is a suitable choice;  the verses could be sung to a tone, such as a descending chant on the same chords.

6 May Ps 98. ‘Sing a new song’ was the beginnings of the short refrain that became known locally, at least by the author, as the South Woden Communion Chant. It’s easy to refit with chosen words from the selected psalm of the (communion) day.

TiS 166 is also a well-known fall-back option.

Psalm 1, Beatus vir, in the Bedford psalter MS 42131 British Library.

13 May Ps 1. I cannot recall singing TiS 1, which is a Thai melody. We should do it. Also a Genevan duet available for anyone who wishes, preferably a sight-reader.

20 May Ps 104:24-35. Sticking with TiS, try 65 ‘Send forth your Spirit’, with its theme of renewal — and a sub-text of conservation? TEP also has a lively little number.

27 May Ps 29; PFAS 29D suits; but TiS 17 is by Willcock — safe hands, although it omits a few verses.

3 Jun. Ps 139:1-6, 13-18; Bruce’s rendition of Search me O God by Michael Card has always been well placed and well received. However, we felt it should not be overexposed, so turn to the NCH refrain, with verses sung to a simple tone.

10 Jun. Ps 138PFAS responsorial 138B has reasonable chords but that’s about the extent of its merit, for me at least. I quite like TiS 86 but would prefer the verses sung rather than spoken. TEP refrain is also a good choice.

17 Jun. Ps 20; A cantor’s word-sheet on Dropbox reminds me we have done PFAS 20B sometime. Simple chants throughout. For a more upbeat message about the futility of warfare, go for TEP‘s ‘Some take pride in horses’.

24 Jun. Ps 9:9-20. Anything Latino catches my eye; in this case it’s the Paraguayan tune in PFAS 9A. Pick a tone for verses.


Psalm 118, 25 March 18

This psalm of thanks opens and closes with resounding acclamations of divine love and mercy that endure forever. In between are statements about trusting in God rather than in rulers (8), relief at delivery from evil and opposition (5, 10) access to goodness (19) and causes for rejoicing.

Each year when this psalm arises on Palm Sunday, local practice has been to pick up verse 22:

The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

As Paul Stookey has it in his song The Building Block, the cornerstone of a whole new world, one more resilient than the grand structures of antiquity — Shelly’s Ozymandius comes to mind.

Since there are half-a-dozen previous posts on this psalm — see April 2017 and March 2016, for example — that’s it for now. Almost… Continue reading “Psalm 118, 25 March 18”

Psalm 51, 18 March 2018

Image Wikimedia commons

St Patrick’s Day slides by largely unremarked. (I did have a Celtic style song based on last week’s Psalm 107 up my sleeve; however, our singers’ rendition of Everett’s three-part refrain for 107, repeated in PFAS, was a pleasing and inspiring addition.)

This week we preview that well-used Psalm 51, thereby moving into more sober territory of the fourth of the seven Penitential Psalms. It is also an important addendum to the powerful story of David, Bathsheba and the brave prophet Nathan who called him out. (2 Samuel 11)

Psalm 51 ‘Miserere mei’ in the 10th C. Bosworth Psalter, British Library MS 37517 f32r. A gloss in Old English has been added later in the margins of the original Latin Text.

Well-used it is; for centuries it has been a popular choice. Often sung during Lent, here on Lent 5 but also on Ash Wednesday and Tenebrae services, the poem is the source of many texts, such as that concluding vespers or other ‘Propers’. Fragments appear frequently in matins and other prayers:

“Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me”. (v.10)

Anyone who sang in the Anglican tradition will remember this, for example, from the first 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, still in use in the rite for morning prayer:

Officiant: O Lord, open thou our lips.
People: And our mouth shall show forth thy praise.

Let’s not forget the hyssop in verse 7. In the Latin it begins: Asperges me (see the chant extract shown from the Liber Usualis). This is not an admission by David that he has an unusual personality condition, but:ps51-aspergesme-lu

Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.


Being a famous penitential song of David and widely quoted, settings of this poem abound:

More humbly, South Woden will hear a simple refrain using the well-known verses 10 and 15 quoted at the outset.