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Crystal Ball Advent 2017

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, what is in store?

  • 12 Nov. Psalm 78. Listen to my teaching; see the post for this psalm published recently. Chorus meet early Sunday.
  • 19 Nov. PFAS 123A suggested – draw a copy of the blue book from the SWUC library. Webmaster is away this week and next; (Stephen leads)
  • 26 Nov. Psalm 100 (Bruce leads)
    • The Old 100th is the traditional approach, TiS59;
    • however the next song in TiS 60, for which sung verses are in the TiS music edition, is preferred.
    • There are many, many choices in the mix of cultural tastes in PFAS 100A to H in our library.
    • Some of the SATB setting by Josquin des Prez would be inspirational if singers are available. We sang it three yers ago!
  • 3 Dec. Advent begins with Psalm 80. PFAS 80A ‘Restore us again’ with word-sheet on Dropbox library would fill the bill nicely again. Verse singers volunteer please.
  • 10 Dec. Go direct to Psalm 85 and the SWUC Communion chant, adapted.
  • 17 Dec. We omit Psalm 126 in favour of a carols and readings service which appropriately includes the Magnificat, led by women and young people. Ladies please note the date.
  • 24 Dec. The Magnificat is the Lectionary song on this date. So;
    • repeat it, or
    • take up Psalm 126 from last week
    • Ps 89 is also set, for which TiS 46 by Christopher Willcock is the choice.
    • We’ll try for a male voice rendition of another Slavonic Orthodox chant, Psalm 126. Men, note the date.
  • The geese are getting fat. More anon…

Singers are needed on many occasions. Rehearsals are @5:00pm on the Saturday before, as usual.

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!

Psalm 23, 17 April 2016

Still waters

Still waters

On Good Friday we noted that, in the midst of darkness of Psalm 22 (why have you forsaken me?), the restoration and peace in the next psalm was not far away. So here they are, those pastures green and cup overflowing of Psalm 23.

How sweet is resolution after a time of conflict, oppression or depression. The Psalter does not say ‘No pain, no gain’. This would be inconsistent with the concept of grace. But its songs often reflect on the coexistence of suffering and joy, and the power of divine love to transform one into the other, as we heard last week:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. (Ps 23:4)

The Music

The popularity of Psalm 23 ensures its appearance several times in the cycle, thrice in year A alone. This is the fifth appearance in three years of this blog (see index). We shall revisit PFAS 23I, El Señor es mi pastor. A small men’s group leads the singing. Iris reads the mellifluous Spanish language selections.

This lovely song follows a familiar pattern in Ibero-Latino community music, switching between minor and major tonalities. Often it is the major and minor of one key, such as G and Gm; this one moves between G minor and Bb major, relative keys with the same key signature but different feel.

Shakespeare concertThe Bard

23 April is the 400th anniversary of the death of the great playwright William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was around and writing when the Authorised or King James Version was prepared and published (1611, also the year when Tomás Luis Victoria died). Despite some speculation about the words ‘shake’ and ‘spear’ appearing in Psalm 46, there’s no known connection between the writings of Bard and Bible.

The purposes and intended audiences of William and David were quite different. How fortunate we are, though, to have two such rich contributions to our heritage, culture and literature.

Those who love Shakespeare may hear a concert performance of readings and songs by The Oriana Chorale at University House on Sunday 17th at 5pm.

Psalm 126, 13 March 2016

Sower with setting sun, Van Gogh 1888. Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. wikiart.org

Sower with setting sun (detail), Van Gogh 1888. Rijksmuseum, Netherlands. wikiart.org

Psalm 126, a song of ascent, contains one of the great scriptural narratives. The sower goes out with seed, responding to the ever-changing seasons, renewing a livelihood. It’s not easy. Drought comes — or floods, birds and animals. Weeds grow to choke the good seed. However:

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (vv 5, 6)

Jesus memorably used this in one of his powerful parables (Mark 4). In a wider sense it is a metaphor for the renewal of a decidedly mixed human existence where yin and yang are evident at every turn, tears and joy never far away.

Both enter the poem from the outset, recalling the sorrows of a people in exile and their relieved delight at being restored to the freedom and familiarity of home. Essentially, it’s a song of hope. (See an earlier post for some other angles.)

Music

The default choice for South Woden, partly because it’s sitting waiting there in the files, is our (somewhat liberal) arrangement of an Orthodox chant borrowed from the Slavonian liturgy as interpreted by the monks of Chevetogne.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.40.However there are good songs in PFAS and other sources. Some interesting settings hide in IMSLP such as the Jean-Philippe Rameau motet shown here, as well as pieces by more obscure composers rejoicing under names like Asola, Converse and Matho.

A while ago I got excited by the congruence of the availability of the male voice quartet and the listing of a Vesper Ps 126 by Tomás Luis Victoria. But the title, Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum (‘Except the Lord build the house’), does not match; it’s 126 in the Vulgate numbering. So it’s now salted away in our Ps 127 file awaiting its glorious moment.

In the year 1800, one Oliver Holden (1765-1844) wrote a tune for Psalm 126, a respectable little hymn, but not antiphonal so not high on our list. It is mentioned here to record the author’s name as one of the more prolific composers of psalms in the United States. He is credited with publishing around 70 psalm tunes in that one year alone, and many more.

The gentlemen’s quartet will present the Orthodox style chant. The refrain is: “And our hearts are filled with joy”.

We shall also repeat as an accessional reflection the anthem Thou knowest Lord the secrets of our hearts, by Henry Purcell (1659-95).

Psalm 27, 21 Feb 2016

Light on snow

Maybe no snow here, but dark paths can be forbidding anywhere.

God is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?

Light the light of the world (John 8:12) and light upon the path (Psalm 119:105) — is a theme found in many psalms, in words that have become familiar by virtue of repetition and songs based on such verses.

This psalm offers encouragement, weaving together two threads of thought.

First is that of light, beauty and goodness. The psalmist asks but one thing, to dwell in that divine aura forever, to see  beauty all around and commune with that spirit.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 19.08.Second is the idea of refuge — protection, salvation and shelter. Light merging with security.

Music

Taking advantage this week of Jon’s presence at the helm, we gather a male voice quartet seeking good harmony and stretching beyond our usual weekly diet.

The Taizé round The Lord is my light and other responsorials are enticing. However, we propose to render a home-grown setting that is equally restrained for Lent but a little more challenging for the singers. The antiphon invites those gathered to make that opening declaration their own:

Cantors: God is my light and my salvation
People: Whom shall I fear?

Ps27 Hdims

I call this little piece the ‘Half-dim’ antiphon after the opening half-diminished chords — perhaps not very suitable a title when rejoicing in the bright rays of divine light on our meandering path. Cantors sing the verses to the same tune. If the technology works, listen here:

Gradual

The male voice quartet will also sing Thou knowest Lord by Henry Purcell (1659-95) as the gradual, a prayer of access. The sentence is borrowed from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Referring liberally to such psalms as 139, it begins:

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our pray’rs; but spare us, Lord most holy.

Rather quaintly to the modern ear it continues, a precursor to Good Friday, with the prayer: ‘suffer us not … to fall from thee’.

Acknowledgement. Images in this post by Libby O’Loghlin, rowinggirl.com CC BY-NC-SA

More on Half-dim?  Continue reading

Psalm 16, 15 Nov 2015

Most weeks I look up the lectionary and, lacking a reliable (let alone encyclopaedic) memory, the first thing I do is look back in this blog history or my Psalm Library to see what goodies I have in the cupboard from last time. There I find a couple of settings of Psalm 16 and things that I wrote about last year, including making reference to that positive but slightly tantalising little verse in the middle;

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage (v.6)

Orland_di_LassusThere are a couple of songs in the Library highly suitable for male voices: for instance, Benedicam Domino (Psalmus 15) by one of my faves Orlando di Lasso (1532 – 1594). Phwoar! It’s only a verse or two, and that in Latin, but very enticing.

Then there’s a little number from PFAS (16D alt) with some nice harmonies and thereby also enticing.

So I get all excited and wonder if I can get the boys together in time….  Then I realise that some of my gentlemen harmonists will be flat out rehearsing for:

The Resonants’ 25th anniversary concert

Saturday 14th at 4:30 – 7pm at the Belconnen Arts Centre (more>>)

If that looks like a plug and tastes like a plug … Well why not? The Reso’s are a lovely small choir founded and directed this quarter century by a lovely small musician in our midst. We locals are in for a treat. Anyway, this means we’ll take the PFAS option. All singers welcomed, from anywhere in the community. Singers, contact me psalmsinthesouth[at]gmail.com.

Back on track

But back to the topic. It’s a bad habit. We really should look at the psalm text first and connect with its overt and subliminal vibes. The music follows.

This reveals something about Psalms in the South. Your humble web-master and cantor is decidedly no theologian, commentator, analyst or even pillar of faith. We love the poetry, the way the psalms are predictive of New Testament events and precepts, and the range of ideas covered including such just-out-of-reach prizes as equity and justice. Sure they are poetry and therefore need imagination and interpretation; it’s hard to find a female perspective in the psalms, and they will keep talking about Zion. But they offer solace and encouragement for a decadent world.

But at core, it’s music that draws us like moths to the candle. How convenient that, emerging from little textual comments and the mists of antiquity and practices of faith, comes this firm belief that psalms are songs. David and his harp, simple folk tunes applied to storytelling from the heart, Gregorian chant, and then the high art of Renaissance polyphony that so often works its majestic way into these pages.

Words music togetherSomehow the lines take on a new depth and nuance when sung: ‘Words, music together beautiful’ as the Chinese calligraphy on our wall says.

The psalter in song is a treasure trove waiting to be explored and expressed.

So there goes another week and all we talked about was music. See you next time.

Psalm 23, 26 April 2015

Still waters

Still waters

Well, who needs an intro to Psalm 23 and the still waters? Over the years this Blog has taken several angles, from the quiet waters to the light-hearted. Do you remember Things that comfort me?

Two previous entries on this lovely psalm appeared in 2014, and it’s tempting on this year’s appearance to just say: ‘Yep, the post for 30 March 14 says it all.’

Except that it never does. There’s always a new insight, a new thought and a new stage of life against which to shine the psalm’s melifluous phrases.

So we should not make too light of this beloved text and its key phrases that have entered into our very cultural landscape — the Lord is my shepherd, green pastures, still waters, you prepare a table, my cup overflows.

The gospel reading then checks in right on cue with:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Music

We shall repeat the Spanish setting we sang a year go (PFAS 23I). It’s also another 4th Sunday so we might expect the esteemed male voice group to stir hearts again this week.

Other tempting music for contemplation includes J S Bach‘s canatata BWV112 based on this psalm. I hope we might do one short section, say 112e which is verse 5.

Initial decorated capital and text of verse 1, PSalm 23 in the Rutland Bible, c 1260. British Library MS 62965

Initial decorated capital D and text (Dominus regit me) of PSalm 23 in the Rutland Bible, c 1260. The British Library MS 62965

There’s another nice setting à3, Der Herr ist meine Hirte, by G P Telemann; and of course dozens of other settings around. So much music, so little time.

Unfortunately, school holidays and hall closures are coincident so who knows who might turn up and what will actually happen on the day of the race — not that this is an unusual circumstance for the patient Psalm Team who manage to produce excellent music in the face of all arisings.