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)
There 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.
Somehow 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.