Crystal Ball Feb-March 2017

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons


  • This series of Crystal Ball posts offers planning information for members of South Woden. Other followers around the world may skip this post — or think of us prayerfully.
  • Thanks to enthusiastic director Helen S and all singers who contributed so willingly and tunefully to music for the 50th Anniversary of South Woden UC, 12 February 2017.
  • South Woden warmly welcomes Gary and Mary-Anne Holdsworth who take up residence and ministry this week.

On 12 Feb we sang the first section Aleph of that longest psalm, no 119. Here are some suggestions for the weeks ahead (noting of course that Rev. Gary and other worship leaders may well choose different approaches to the psalm):

17 Feb. Induction service at Weston Creek for Rev. Gary Holdsworth. Brian, Bette and Brendan lead Psalm 118 with Paul Stookey’s The Building Block.

19 Feb. For Psalm 119e, we reprise the home-grown refrain for 119a sung so beautifully at the 50th Anniversary, refitting the tune with text from verse 33: Teach me the way of your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end.

26 Feb. I lean towards The New Century Hymnal and a short refrain for Psalm 2 by Carolyn Jennings (1994): “Happy are all who take refuge in God.”  Alternatives will be published in a post early that week. Male voices may convene for the last Sunday?

5 Mar. Gwenda leads us in a service that each year is proximate to and therefore celebrates International Women’s Day. In the past, we have recognised the day with women and girls singing songs by composers from Hildegard of Bingen to Sinead. On this occasion in 2017, instead of the psalm we sing a Shaker song, Simple Gifts. Women are encouraged to sing. Helen will advise musical plans! Note that the relevant post, when it appears on 1 March, will highlight the contribution of women to the themes in the Psalter and to Christian service.

12 Mar. And now for something different: can you handle some Beatles? Psalm 121 says: I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. (v.1) So why not sing Help by Lennon and McCartney? Beatles fans and anyone who wants to be in it, please join in.

19 Mar. A good option for Psalm 95 is available in ‘the red book’, TiS 53, set to the Calypso Carol. (Webmaster is absent this week)

26 Mar. Psalm 23 without CRIMOND? Continue the tradition of male voices convening for the last Sunday and present the lilting Spanish song El señor es  mi pastor (My shepherd is the Lord), PFAS 23I.IMG_2346.JPG

2 Apr. Sinead’s chorus Out of the depths, with paraphrased verses to fit the song, will serve us well for Psalm 130. A volunteer cantor has kindly offered.

And then …

LEADERS are required for the months of April and May 2017 while the author is far from Canberra. Please consider acting as convener for a month at a time.

A full list of suggested songs will be published shortly on a forthcoming Crystal Ball. Resources can be provided on request.

Crystal Ball, June-July 2016

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia 

Best laid plans, bare of commentary on musical options and based on the leader choosing the first reading listed in the lectionary, are as follows:

5 June: PFAS 146B, with Taizé refrain and first tone.

12 June: PFAS 5B (or 5C if the right singers are available)

19 June: Psalms 42-43, use song-sheet on Dropbox library to either the NCH refrain (if you have that book) or any other simple tune. PFAS has several suitable tunes, such as 43C.

26 June: I have not had a chance to adapt the Winter Solstice (southern hemisphere) refrain we used last year to this year’s Psalm 77. Perhaps The Emergent Psalter‘s ‘I call to mind your deeds’ would suffice. PFAS 77C looks fun for a winter’s day.

The inattentive visitor looking up at the vaulted cathedral of Siena might step on this simple but beautiful marble unawares. A wondering Mary?

3 July: Psalm 30, You turned my lament into dancing on Dropbox. A ladies’ group sang this in fine form not long ago so why not reconvene and reprise?

10 July: PFAS 82B, social justice to the fore

17 July: PFAS 52B — I am like a green olive tree (v.8)

24 July: The Betty Pulkingham tune at Together in Song 45; or PFAS 85B, another Taizé refrain (Dona nobis pacem, not the one in our book TiS which could also be used) and nice song (best for a sight-reader). See earlier post on Psalm 85 for the SW home-grown song.

There are alternatives of course, a few hymns but very few responsorial songs in Together in Song for set psalms over this period save the one mentioned. The Emergent Psalter always offers a thoughtful and singable tune, but you need to make up your own tune or tone for the verses.

South Woden singers  Continue reading

Crystal Ball, May 2016

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

The plan for the coming month looks roughly like this — a first cut, and anything can happen according to leaders’ inspirations, the Cantor’s whim and happenstance.

1 May. Psalm 67 is quite like the Aaronic blessing, suggesting lots of atmospherics. There’s a famous canon by Tallis, but it needs preparation. If our visiting leader wishes, we could sing The emergent psalter (May God be gracious, which can be a round) or PFAS 67C.

8 May. Settings from Psalms for all Seasons and The Emergent Psalter are also neck and neck for Psalm 97, the former (97C) with slightly better words and the latter having much more interesting chords. Several hymns available.

15 May. Men sing in support of Keith who leads this week. We have sung a Gregorian chant (8th tone) for Psalm 104 previously, but that was to get into the medieval zone with an antiphon by Hildegard. PFAS 104G and Together in song 65 in four parts (with a more adventurous tone) could be good for Pentecost. The anthem could be a Tomkins setting or the delightful Sanctus (‘Heilig heilig’ or ‘Holy holy’) from  Schubert’s Deutche Messe.

The inattentive visitor looking up at the vaulted cathedral of Siena might step on this simple but beautiful marble unawares. A wondering Mary?

22 May. Women sing to support Gwenda at the helm with a lovely song for Psalm 8 by two women, Linnea Good and Lynn Bauman, Height of heaven. Paraphrased verses will be sung to the same tune.

Leaders, singers, readers; any suggestions or comments welcomed — and of course your voices!

Crystal Ball, August 2015

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Thanks to the Two Joans and other participants for a great Taizé gathering today. Some lovely singing by all present.

Here’s the … I was going to say “plan”, but to be honest it’s more guesswork than prediction. Thing is, while we have so many different wonderful people leading us in such interesting and inspiring ways, approaches and wishes are diverse to the point of inspired randomisation. Not a bad thing, of course, as the ideas flow freely.

So take the listing below as an invitation to participate (it won’t happen otherwise) in the unfolding drama each week. Singers needed.

  • 26 July. Psalm 14 is a little on the dark side, but is still a good reminder of life without divine love. We use the refrain in two parts from The Emergent Psalter — yum! Psalm 53’s refrain is tossed in on top! Our own Dr Roger, consummate thinker, commentator, speaker and author of some of our favourite songs, takes the bully pulpit; yours truly on the goanna again.
  • Orland di Lassus. Wikicommons

    2 Aug. This week, the great Psalm 51, which attracted great composers like ants to the Vegemite. There are more settings than you can poke a stick at: I know of 70 or so in the public domain — including some of my favourite composers like Victoria, Josquin and Lassus (on the last of whom see my effusive ramblings in a previous post here> and also here>) competing for the best version of this Penitential Psalm. There are plenty of others still under copyright, like a baker’s dozen in Psalms for all seasons. I make no predictions whatever as to what our visiting leader Rev. R might choose, but you would have to say it’s the classic Grand Opportunity for Sight-Readers-in-the-South. I await your enthusiastic calls!

  • 9 Aug. Ah, now here’s a day not to sleep in, cold though it may be. A musical extravaganza with the flimsy excuse of the annual visit of The Gospel Folk under Brian’s baton. The set psalm is 130 but in addition your regular musicians will lead a reflection on music in worship. The psalm segment, led by both mixed and male voice groups, will dip into a showcase of styles from Renaissance through multi-cultural (Orthodox and Latino) to modern folk (Sinead, Paul Kelly) and, of course, gospel. Can’t wait!
  • 16, 23 and 30 Aug. I’m exhausted already. Suffice to say that these three weeks bring us Psalms 111, 84 and 45, with such diverse ideas as ‘How lovely is your dwelling place’, ‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’, and (wait for it … ) ‘All your garments are fragrant.’ We see in the glass darkly, but the suggested options are posted up on Dropbox as usual for those few who look at it.
  • September. Your web-master and Psalms-in-the-south Cantor is again away visiting families. Some choices are on Dropbox and will be accessed, as in May-June, via a ‘sticky post’ on this site.

Crystal Ball, March – April 2015

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

No, I have not been flooded by your clamouring voices reminding me that the last prediction by the haruspex fails to extend its comforting knowledge of the musical delights we may anticipate after O frondens virga.

Clearly this means everyone is reading the psalm selection plan on Dropbox, or else lurking in the wings to accost me on Sunday to gain such essential intelligence. However, persistent and insensitive as I am, I’m going to tell you anyway.

Lent is already well under way. So Easter, that very significant point in the church calendar, is almost upon us. A fine sprinkling of psalms awaits, ranging from 4 to 133.

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

Psalm 1, Beatus vir, in the Bedford psalter c. 1420. Add MS 42131 British Library (click to enlarge)

Psalm 1 does not come up till May but it’s generally quite a favourite; so I take the liberty of sneaking in an illuminated manuscript to whet the appetite. I’m tempted to pop in a calendar page for April from one of these old books of hours but it would be pure indulgence; Luther therefore would not have approved.

Meanwhile, back to reality where this is the real snapshot until the end of April when, to your relief, your Hon. Webmaster flees the country:

  • 22 Mar, Psalm 51. A reprise of Miserere mei Domine à4 by Lassus; a quartet sings again.
  • 29 Mar, Psalm 31. Palms and a procession, PFAS 31C as sung last year – all voices
  • 5 Apr, Psalm 118 and a reprise of The building block – all voices.
  • 12 Apr, Psalm 133, female voices sing PFAS 133D, Miren qué buono. Fun!
  • 19 Apr, Psalm 4. Probably PFAS 4B, In the night I take my rest
  • 26 Apr, Psalm 23. Male voice group sings a nice and familiar Spanish version, El Senor es mi pastor, PFAS 23I

Crystal Ball Feb 15

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Here’s an updated snapshot, still incomplete, for the coming months. Singers, please note the dates.

  • 25 Jan, Ps 62 TiS 33 men‘s group
  • 1 Feb, Ps 111 TiS 68 all singers
  • 8 Feb, Ps 147 Emergent psalter (music>) all singers
  • 15 Feb, Ps 50 PFAS 50C, men
  • 22 Feb, Ps 25 Emergent Psalter women
  • 1 March, Ps 22 mixed voices. Music TBA
  • 8 Mar, Ps 19 TiS 7 TBC, women (IWD)

New singers always welcomed.


The cantor plot for tomorrow (18 Jan) is demonstrating its flexibility:

  • one beloved cantor, to whom our warmest love and congratulations, has just given birth to a beautiful son, Charlie Thomas
  • a second has been called upon to attend a funeral.

Blessings on all.

Crystal Ball, January 2015

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

Crystal ball, by J Waterhouse. Image Wikimedia commons

The last time we looked into the mists of the ball was for the month that has just gone under the bridge and downstream.

Happy New Year has already been wished to all readers in the last entry. The harbingers are indeed propitious for an excellent year in music, with Canberra’s many groups and festivals presenting a true smorgasbord of delights.

In addition to the orchestral, vocal and jazz groups appearing regularly, the Canberra International Music Festival, now directed by that wonderful musician and conductor Roland Peelman under whom I have worked on many occasions, promises new pleasures. A new Early Music Festival is being cooked up for October.

The Director and some of our fine singers in The Resonants, whose great musical talents frequently enrich the gatherings at South Woden, will again offer an interesting and varied programme of the highest quality during 2015. Your web-master continues to sing with The Oriana Chorale.


Taking another peek at the Ball for January, we see the following:

  • 4 Jan: already blogged. Taizé refrain to Psalm 72 marking Epiphany. St James and Yarralumla members join us at South Woden.
  • (11 Jan: no service as we attend St James.)
  • 18 Jan: Psalm 139 with a refrain by Jane Marshall from the New century hymnal.
  • 25 Jan: gentlemen, I hope you are all available for this, the first of our 4th Sundays appearances. We sing Psalm 62C by Thomas Tallis in PFAS. Another post will follow up on detail.

Cantors and chorus for each of the three Sundays @SW are invited. Your suggestions, and voices, will be welcomed as always.

Plan BAnd beyond

A new phase of self-help planning and leading after Rev. Rachel’s departure begins from now.

During the interregnum, those planning and leading services may benefit from the recommendations for Sundays through to the end of April in the Psalm Selection Plan on the SW Music Dropbox. Please contact me for the link or sharing.

A new resource page, Notes for leaders, now appears on the menu at left. It contains little new information but may be a handy reminder.

Also high on the priority needs list are volunteers from May to October during my various absences to undertake the following main roles:

  • psalm selection and music recommendations, working with rostered leaders and planners, and
  • blog authors to post advisory notices and short commentary.

Selection draft planAny members who can take over or just contribute to these interesting and rewarding tasks, please speak to me as soon as possible.

A new and exciting year unfolds. Consider.