Praise Notes: The Book of Praise #2

 The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada Hymn #2

How many are against me, Lord

Psalm 3

Adon Olam 
Paraphrase Christopher Idle (1938-) Hope Publishing
Music Eliezer Gerovitch (1844-1914) public domain
While the music for this hymn is in the public domain, the lyrics are still held in copyright by Hope Publishing so I won’t quote the lyrics.

There was a time when the first hymn every week at our church was one of the metrical psalms.  As the choir director I  was of mixed opinion on that.  The Psalms themselves are great.  Some of the tunes are, similarly, wonderful.  On the other hand, some of the paraphrases and or the music to which they are set leave something to be desired. 


I  like the melody Adon Olam, which is a Jewish hymn tune which seems to be included in most Jewish children’s songbooks and is available in many forms on Itunes, is quite haunting on the one hand and, sung at the customary tempo, a little bit marshal.   I do not, however, really like it for general congregational singing.  While it correctly uses the melodic form of the minor scale in ascending lines, the use of all the accidentals makes it at least seem more complicated than is necessary or desirable for a psalm. 


In this case the paraphrase fits nicely into the phrasing of the melody.  The original Hebrew lyrics used with the tune are, in several places, translated to “Master of the Universe” which is a song of praise to God.  To my mind, that song of praise suits the tune better than the mixture of sharing concerns and then hope which come in Psalm 3 which begins with;

I have so many enemies, Lord,
so many who turn against me!
They talk about me and say,
“God will not help him.”

In the end, hymn #2 is one I am unlikely to choose for a service in the future.  


the Psalm quotation comes from the  Good News Bible (1976)


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