This page gives a little information on:

  1. Types of resources available and their file types and locations
  2. Some of the many sources from which we often draw music
  3. Archives – selected articles giving some background to our approach
Psalmody in humanist Library, Selestat FR
Neume notation in a psalter of 11th C

INDEX: Please use the Index of psalms by number page or search function to find a psalm by key word, number or date on which it was sung at South Woden.

Resources on this site may be found from a title or keyword, or try the tags. The general term ‘psalm’ may be used to include canticles, which are often listed after psalms in the sources. For good background, read this page from Psalms for all seasons.

1. File types

The downloadable files on this website are in these categories:

DOC/PDF files:
Printable lyric sheets/music pieces.  You will need Adobe Reader or a freeware alternative to open PDF files.

MIDI files:
General MIDI files of the piano accompaniment and can be played on a MIDI keyboard. MIDI files will also run on any Mac or PC with Windows Media Player or similar.

MP3 files:
Audio instrumental versions of the music for listening. .wav files can be provided on request.

MuseScore files:
Files for use with the freeware music notation program MuseScore. Use these files if you want to import and hear, transpose up or down, or otherwise edit the notation. Many are available from the webmaster but not included as links or attachments on this site.

2. Sources

Sources are myriad, from web pages to old psalmodies and modern song books. Selectivity is inevitable. Amongst our primary sources are the following:

Psalms for all seasons: A complete psalter for worship, Calvin Institute, 2012. This excellent book provides several different styles of setting, hymn, chant, tone, or reading for every psalm and many canticles.

The emergent psalter, by Isaac Everett, Church Publishing, NY, 2009. Everett offers his own antiphonal responses for each psalm, usually in a modern style. His music, including piano accompaniment, is available from Church Publishing here>. Select ‘Downloads’ from the menu and choose a psalm.

Traditional psalters. These include the old hymn books of all denominations and the Catholic Missal.

Together in song: Australian Hymn Book II, Harper CollinsReligious, 1999. This is the hymn book in use at South Woden Uniting. It has several psalm settings in the early pages, although the selected verses do not always match the lectionary readings.

The new century hymnal, Pilgrim Press 1995. Another book of hymns and songs containing a psalm section at the end.

Singing from the Lectionary. A useful and very extensive web-based survey of songs appropriate to the forthcoming weeks of the set readings.

3. Archives

The files of music, antiphons, cantor text and other resources used over the last few years is held on Dropbox. These may be accessed via the Library page, or the SWUC Music folder on application to the webmaster/cantor (see contacts).

A little history:

South Woden singing the psalms

(Article for SW magazine INFO)

‘The observant of you will have noticed’, as I am prone to say from time to time, that we often sing rather than read the psalm on Sunday mornings. If I were Alfie you might well ask: ‘What’s it all about?’

First, many of the psalms were written as poetry and song and we are picking up this thread. Next, narrative or reverie takes on a special quality when it’s sung. The evolutionists can’t quite work out why music was beneficial to the survival of the species, but sure as eggs it’s good for us. We respond with pleasure, emotion or thoughtfulness. Our worship is somehow richer and more meaningful.

Finally, the ’emergent church’, which presumably means whatever the next gen is, is said to be showing an interest in many forms of traditionalism but without the trappings of conservative doctrine or institutions. Isaac Everett, a New York musician whose responses we sometimes use, wrote in his excellent book The Emergent Psalter:

The return to ancient practice does not necessarily coincide with a return to theological orthodoxy. In fact, emerging Christians are discovering that the mystery and ambiguity of ritual meshes with a postmodern worldview in a way that their past experiences of worship haven’t.

That may be a little heavy but you get the idea. In practical terms at South Woden, it means appreciating the best of the past and staying attuned to the present day; identifying with the tradition over thousands of years of singing the psalms and those who have sung them; reflecting current theological insights as brought to us by Rachel; and using a variety of musical styles old and new that we can enjoy.

So where do these catchy little riffs come from? First, the worship leader chooses readings from the lectionary (another point of connection with the global community of faith) and their main messages. I then dig around amongst modern books and web resources that support this movement for singing this psalms (I can list some for anyone interested) and recommend options for tune or response. The chosen song has to be a good fit from several angles. Here are just three:

  • support the message(s) of the day – a primary goal
  • suit our SWUC worship style
  • enrich worship through achievable, ‘good’ music.

On the first point, key verses from the psalm support or provide a theme of the day and pop up in the liturgy, call to worship and the response, or ‘antiphon’, sung by the people. We start with the NRSV version but will sometimes use other words in the interest of inclusiveness or scansion.

Village and community of Taizé

Secondly, SWUC has always been a broadly based bunch, willing to draw from many traditions and responding to ‘open architecture’, to borrow from the IT geeks. Musically, some admit to a more classical background, some to folk or gospel, and others like just whatever ‘sounds good’. So I try to draw from ancient plainsong and traditional liturgical sounds through Taizé and Iona to swing, folk and even jazz influences.

And thirdly, I look for good harmony and memorable tunes but with a sharp eye for simplicity and confidence in our ability to learn and enjoy the song. Most sources have completely new response tunes for each and every weekly psalm. I try to reduce the turbulence by using the same tune (or a variation) for the monthly communion services. I make up simple tunes if I can’t find one that is short and sweet or would require us to learn it as a separate session before the call to worship.

I have to say you are an excellent group to lead, fast to learn and lovely singers. I find your responses warm and inspiring, thank you, and I hope you enjoy them.

Our ambitions must be tailored to our lead singers and their availability – we are by no means reaching full potential for vocal contributions in worship but I understand how busy people are. Thank you to those who help out from time to time as part of the ‘Psalm Team‘. Anyone who is interested in being involved, please ask me. You can also find the forward plan, tunes and words for each week in a SW Dropbox folder (I can give you the link).

28 November 2012

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