There are thousands of musical settings of the 150 poems in the Psalter. Some of them are just a simple refrain of a few notes or an antiphon using the simplest chant without harmony, ranging up to grand elaborate works that stand alone as pinnacles of musical invention. In the latter category, the Psalmi Davidis poenitentiales by Lassus, with a short motet for each verse in two to six voices, are described elsewhere in these pages.
Psalm 100, being a short and lively song of praise, features frequently in the lists, including that Genevan ‘Old Hundredth’, All people that on earth do dwell. A new innovative work based on Psalm 100 is about to delight audiences at the Canberra Girls’ Grammar School auditorium on Wednesday 4 April. This is Jubilate Deo by Dan Forest, the title being from the first verse:
Jubilate Deo, omnis terra; servite Domino in laetitia. Introite in conspectu ejus in exsultatione. / O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: serve the Lord with gladness, and come before his presence with a song.
The use of Latin in the text is hardly unusual. Such settings abound, particularly those from earlier years. However, this work samples languages and musical styles from around the world, as its seven movements interpret the five verses of this short but popular song of joy. Here are some of the other cultural connections:
Ve adthdor vador (from age to age, v.5) in Hebrew and Arabic
Ta cao chang (The sheep of his pasture, v.3) Mandarin Chinese
Vespers psalm settings by Victoria, Lassus and Rachmaninov have been mentioned several times on this blog – see for example Psalms 103, 104, 112, 116 and 127. Canberra area readers will be interested in an opportunity to hear some of the wonderful Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil (‘Vespers’) this Saturday.
Extracts from the Vespers will be performed in the extraordinary acoustic of the Fitters’ Workshop at 3 pm on Saturday 26 April 2017.
The Oriana Chorale presents haunting music of darkness and light in a program of music composers of northern European descent, curated by Music Director Peter Young. The woman with the alabaster box is one of two works by Arvo Pärt, famous for his shimmering and hypnotic choral effects.
Also included are works by three of the most interesting choral composers of today, Ola Gjeilo, Erik Esenvalds and Paul Mealor (the composer of a new piece for Prince William’s wedding). Jazz fans will also be interested to hear evocative saxophone improvisations by prominent local musician and teacher John Mackey.
While several of the vespers psalms are omitted on this occasion, the wonderful first psalm will open the Rachmaninov sector. The concert will provide an excellent and enjoyable idea of the sonority of the Orthodox tradition, ranging from meditative moments to the explosive last movement:
South Wodens may remember that some time ago a male-voice trio presented a much-trimmed version of Rachmaninov’s Psalm 103:
Christmas and New Year celebrations seem ancient history already!
Thanks to Dal, Jo, Bette and Brian for Psalm 112, Light rises in darkness last Sunday. The week before, we sang a blessing (in lovely harmony of course) upon our young people as they launch forth upon a new academic year.
Relishing those aural memories and a fantastic men’s chorus the previous Sunday singing the African-American chorus I’m gonna live so God can use me, we draw our eyes from the past to look into the crystal ball.
Those involved in music planning will know that the forward plan for psalm music selection is on the Dropbox folder ‘SWUC Music’ (ask for access if you consider that you can contribute). Subject to new inspirations and planning considerations for each week’s gathering, here’s a snapshot of ideas for the coming weeks:
16 and 23: We use an antiphonal response from The Emergent Psalter by Isaac Everett, same tune both days with a different verse.
Male voices will host the last Sunday, but ALL SINGERS WELCOME – men, women and children – especially for 16 Feb. (Post on 16 Feb is imminent.)
Psalm 2, together with its companion Psalm 1 forming in some ways an introduction to the whole book of Psalms, opens the batting on 2 March, a communion Sunday. We plan to singHappy are those who take refuge in God, from New Century Hymnal with piano accompaniment. [Your cantor/blogmaster will be away this week.]
Ash Wednesday on 5 March (no service at Pearce) marks the beginning of Lent. (Interested in the ‘vibe’ for Lent? Please turn to an article salted away on the Styles page regarding our approach in previous years.) This year we again take communion each week and will use the same Amen as the blessing on the children last week.
Then we are looking a little more into that Pre-Raphaelite Crystal Ball, but my guess is that the psalm scene will look like this:
9th, Psalm 32. We shall sing Show me the way to go, another lilting response from Isaac Everett. Perhaps the women might lead this in acknowledgement of International Women’s Day.
16th, Psalm 121. We turn to TiS 77, a typically singable song by John Bell. Soloists sing the first two lines and the congregation answers with the last two lines in each stanza. We invite the children to join us in leading this psalm. Their voices will form an echo choir at the end of lines 1 and 3. (Or, as has been suggested previously, the Beatles Help! works well; any starters?)
23rd, Psalm 95. The crystal ball gets milky – perhaps Everett’s Come let us sing?
30th, Psalm 23. The psalm is so well-known it might form the basis of a harmonised chant by the men’s group, rostered for the last Sunday, as well as a congregational song.
As usual, there are many opportunities for you to contribute. Please:
make suggestions to one of the music team (Rachel, Helen S, Joan or Brendan)
send feedback to the cantor/blogmaster (see below)
For those interested, this is to advise there is some new material on the Styles page – click here> or at left.
1. It now includes a review of the pattern of activity in Year C, December 2012 to November 2013, based on about 40 weeks of singing the psalms (your cantor was away for a while swanning around in Europe and seeing beloved relatives in those parts)
Why draw this to your attention? Purely to elicit any comments on how you would like the balance – more of this style, less of that, something new? Let me know. I can put a poll up on the page if there is enough interest. (No comment = steady as she goes.)
2.We are pretty used to hearing from John Bell – but have you heard of Canadian Steve Bell? Do scroll right down on the Styles page to listen to something different.
3. Thanks to Trish for her unfailing enthusiasm and support; and blessings for a quick recovery.