If you’re here for the bookmark I give out with the reading schedules on it, you can download it here.
Music and CDs
Sons of Korah is a marvelous band offering the psalms set to modern performance music. There’s a difference between performance music and participatory music, so be careful about trying to use these for congregational singing — some of them work better than others. But for personal use, or for waking people up to what’s really in the Psalms, they’re amazing.
My Soul Among Lions is steadily working their way through the Psalms, ten per album, in a contemporary folk style.
Matt Searles has multiple albums of psalms out.
Everlasting Word Band has also done a few psalms in their album “Rise Up O Just One.”
Our very own Joe Anderson has begun to record Psalms and put them up on YouTube.
The Genevan Psalter Resource Center has metrical psalm texts, sheet music, and recordings so you can learn the songs by ear. If you like the style — and it does grow on you, especially if you speed it up to a proper marching tempo, which is how this music was meant to be sung — this is a one-stop shop.
Jim Jordan has a good brief tutorial on learning to chant the Psalms. Cynthia Bourgeault (whom I do not recommend for anything but learning the mechanics of chant) also has a helpful lesson at Beliefnet.
Finally, if you’re researching tunes, few sites are the equal of Hymnary.org.
For years my favorite has been the psalter/hymnal Cantus Christi from Canon Press. The Cantus remains the best single slice-of-Western-church-music available under a single cover, but I have recently found it eclipsed in my own singing by Sing Psalms, the psalter of the Free Church of Scotland. The split-leaf edition is really pricey, but there is also a words-only edition available. The melodies are lovely, many of them apparently written for this Psalter, and the poetry is outstanding.
For reading or chanting the Psalms aloud, I make frequent use of the Book of Common Prayer and the Psalter According to the Seventy, each of which features its own scheme for morning and evening readings to get you through the whole Psalter regularly (thirty days and seven days, respectively). I happen to have both books, but if all you want is the reading schedules, you can download them here.
Books and Audio Teaching
Duane Garner’s four lectures on Church Music Through History (scroll down a bit for them) are a good general introduction to church music. He is a wee bit sarcastic, and you may be offended. But look past that and give some thought to whether he doesn’t also have a point.
Canon Press is a gold mine.
Crown and Covenant has a variety of psalters, CDs and related resources.
If you’re getting gummed up in the details of instruments, and what we’re permitted to do, you should read Leithart’s From Silence to Song. Beyond that, Westermeyer’s Te Deum: The Church and Music is invaluable, if not exactly a riveting read.
A Note to GES 2010 Attendees
When I said that there are lots of places to start, I wasn’t kidding. Below you will find just a few of the resources that my church and I have used to get started singing the Psalms.
Of course, having resources is only half the battle. The other part is finding a way to gently ease the congregation into singing new and unfamiliar songs. One of the best ways to do this is to match meter. The better hymnals, like Cantus Christi, will have metrical indices. Among songs with the same meter, you can mix and match tunes. For example, take the first stanza to the metrical setting of Psalm 130 from the 1650 Scottish Psalter:
Lord, from the depths to Thee I cried
My voice, Lord, do Thou hear:
Unto my supplication’s voice
Give an attentive ear.
This happens to be written in Common Meter, which means you can sing it to a lot of different tunes. In the Psalter before me, it’s set to Martyrdom, which is the tune for “Alas and did my Savior bleed.” You can also sing it to the tunes of “Amazing Grace,” “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” “All Hail the Pow’r,” “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” and the theme to Gilligan’s Island. Not all of the tunes are equally appropriate choices for the words, of course, so some discernment is called for. But matching meter is a great way to introduce your congregation to a Psalm using a tune they already know.
A Note to the GC Men’s Advance Attendees
The Psalm 2 arrangement we used, “Why do the Heathen Nations Vainly Rage”, was recorded by Everlasting Word Band and is available on their EP, Rise Up O Just One. The Psalm 23 arrangement we sang is from the Genevan Psalter, and you can find it for free at the Genevan Psalter Resource Center.