Psalms

Bookmark

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 Cry Ascends is a CD of psalms and hymns specifically written for congregational singing, by someone who knows how.  Audio samples are available, and you can buy sheet music from Greyfriars Press.

Everlasting Word Band has also done a few psalms in their album “Rise Up O Just One.”

Online Resources

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.

Suzanne Haik-Vantoura did a lifetime of work on the original music of the Psalms, and John Wheeler has released her book in English. Some of the recordings are on YouTube.

Finally, if you’re researching tunes, few sites are the equal of Hymnary.org.

Psalters

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.

If you like metrical psalms, you can find the Scottish Psalter online, as well as the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, currently preserved in the Book of Praise (guitar cords 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.

The worship section at Canon Press is a gold mine. Their worship audio is also helpful.

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.

4 Responses to Psalms

  1. Frank Tyler says:

    Tim, thanks for a wonderful Bible study and time of fellowship in the Psalms!

    Your Brother,

    Frank

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Frank,

    It was a privilege and a pleasure to spend the weekend with y’all. Glad to do it, and glad you found it profitable.

    His forever,
    Tim

  3. Tim Hatfield II says:

    Hello there,

    stumbled across your site, my family and I are looking for resources to aid us in chanting the literal psalms. We came across the RSCM’s (royal school of church music) ‘anglican common worship Psalter with chants’. It has some helpful markings to help you sing your way through the psalms. It has a fairly simple musical structure but to me seems more glorious than the simple form of chanting prescribed in Jim Jordan’s Horizons newsletter #61 (not to downplay it, something is far better than nothing).

    I am wondering about the translation in this anglican psalter though. Does anyone have any input on whether it is a faithful translation? It is copyright 2001, 2002. I am considering buying it as it is the most simple and glorious aid to chanting the psalms I have found thus far.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    Tim Hatfield II

  4. Tim Nichols says:

    Tim,

    The BCP still uses the Coverdale Psalter, if I remember correctly, but I have no idea what the psalter you’re referring to uses — I’ve never seen it. But thanks for the heads-up; I’ll probably snag one myself in the near future.

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