Tag Archives: metrical Psalms

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 61


Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #61

Oh come and sing unto the Lord

Psalm 95
Irish
Paraphrase,  Psalter 1912
Music: A Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1749
 
Oh come and sing unto the Lord;
to God our voices raise.
O Rock of  our salvation hear
our joyful noise of praise!

Before God’s presence let us come
with praise and thankful voice;
let us sing psalms to God with grace,
with grateful hearts rejoice.

Our God is great and reigns supreme
above all power and might;
God’s hand still holds the depths of earth,
the mountains’ breadth and height.

The sea belongs to God alone
who made both calm and storm,
and from the Maker’s mighty hand
the dry land took its form.

Oh come and let us worship God
as to our knees we fall;
we are God’s people; God is Lord,
the Maker of us all.

This paraphrase flows well and uses language which will be simple even for children.  Good to use when Psalm 95 comes up in the lectionary, this is also good to use any time creation or praise in general are a Sunday theme.

Irish is a good melody with two distinctive phrase patterns.  The first two phrases are primarily step-wise while the second pair has a series of skips and falls with eighth notes to add interest.  The tune is used for one other hymn in the book, Thy kingdom come- on bended knee #784.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 58


Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #58

To render thanks unto the Lord

Psalm 92
Bishopthorpe
Paraphrase, Scottish  Psalter 1650
Music: Jeremiah Clarke (c.1674-1707) paraphrase
 
To render thanks unto the Lord,
it is a comely thing,
and to thy name, O thou Most High,
due praise aloud to sing.

Thy loving kindness to show forth
when shines the morning light,
and to declare thy faithfulness
with pleasure every night,

upon a ten-stringed instrument,
up on the psaltery,
and on the harp with solemn sound,
and grave sweet melody.

For thou, Lord, by thy mighty works
hast made my heart right glad,
and I will triumph in the works
which by thy hands were made. 

The language is quite archaic.  When was the last time you heard anything referred to as “comely”?  I find the fact that verse two doesn’t end until the end of verse three irritating, as always when these things happen.

The tune Bishopthorpe is a slightly less familiar melody, at least in the churches in my area.  In 3/4 time, it begins with a syncopated pick-up note at each phrase.  I really like the snappy rhythm in the second last bar.  The range is slightly less than an octave, and it is easy to sing.  This is the only hymn in the Book of Praise which uses this melody, though it does work with other 8686 CM lyrics.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Eleven


Eleventh in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #37

O God, thou art my God alone

Psalm 63
Wainwright
Paraphrase, James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Music: Richard Wainwright (1758-1825)
public domain
 
O God, thou art my God alone;
early to thee my soul shall cry,
a pilgrim in a land unknown,
a thirsty land whose springs are dry.

Yet through this rough and thorny maze
I follow hard on thee, my God;
thy hand unseen upholds my ways;
I safely tread where thou hast trod.

Thee in the watches of the night
when I remember on my bed,
thy presence makes the darkness light;
thy guardian wings are round my head.

Better than life itself, thy love,
dearer than all beside to me,
for whom have I in heaven above,
or what on earth, compared with thee?

Praise with my heart, my mind, my voice,
for all thy mercy I will give;
my soul shall still in God rejoice;
my tongue shall bless the while I live.

The paraphrase is good.  It fits nicely with the musical phrases and for the most part uses syntax which makes the meaning of the verses clear.  I particularly like the third and fifth verses.

The tune for this hymn is not well known in my congregation, but is not difficult to sing and fairly pleasant.  There are also some interesting bits in the parts which makes it more fun for the choir.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Ten


Tenth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #34

God be merciful to me

Psalm 51
Pressburg (Nicht So Traurig)
Paraphrase, Psalter 1912
Music: Geistreiches Gensangbuch (Freylinghausen) 1704
public domain
 
God be merciful to me; on thy grace I rest my plea
Plenteous in compassion thou, blot out my transgressions now;
my transgressions I confess; grief and guilt my soul oppress;
I have sinned against thy grace and provoked thee to thy face.Wash me, wash me pure within; cleanse, oh cleanse me from my sin;
I confess thy judgements just; speechless, I thy mercy trust.
Thou alone my saviour art; teach thy wisdom to my heart;
make me pure, thy grace bestow; make me thus thy mercy know.

Gracious God, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true;
from my sins oh hide thy face, blot them out in boundless grace.
Cast me not away from thee: let thy Spirit dwell in me;
thy salvation’s joy impart; steadfast make my willing heart.

The paraphrase has a perfect rhyme and rhythm scheme which if spoken might make it seem a bit trite.  Sung however it has a nice flow.

The tune for this hymn is not one you want to spring on a congregation with whom it is unfamiliar.  In a minor key with half-tone changes in note from bar to bar (F# in one bar with F in the next) it will take some time for it to become comfortable.  Assuming your choir can sing it, I advise having the organ (piano) play it all the way through and then just the choir for the first verse and then the congregation joining as they are comfortable.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Nine


Ninth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #32

Within your temple, Lord

Psalm 48
Gopsal
Paraphrase, United Presbyterian Book of Psalms 1871
Music: Congregational Church Music 1853
public domain
 
Within your temple, Lord, your mercies we will tell,
for where your name is known there does your praise excel:
your praises sound through every land;
with righteous reign you shall command.Mount Zion, now rejoice! Let Judah’s daughters praise
with strong and cheerful voice, the justice God displays;
go round the walls on Zion’s mount
its many splendours to recount.

The towers of Zion tell; its palaces survey;
mark its defences well, and to your children say:
“The Lord, our faithful God and guide,
this God forever shall abide.”

The paraphrase is considerably shorter than the original Psalm and seems to leave out most of the more martial elements.  Other than that, it fits nicely with the phrasing of the melody.  If it were not the Lectionary Psalm of the day, I don’t think I would pick it for a service.

The tune for this hymn is ok.  I’m not a huge fan, but it isn’t hard to sing and congregations will pick it up fairly quickly.  I like the fact that the second half is not just more of the same.  After two repeated lines there are two upward flowing phrases which lead to a nice climax.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Eight


Eighth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #29

Oh send thy light forth

Psalm 43
St. Paul
Paraphrase, Scottish Psalter 1650
Music: James Chalmers’ Collection, 1749 
public domain
 
Oh send thy light forth and thy truth;
let them be guides to me,
and bring me to thine holy hill,
even where thy dwellings be.
Then to God’s altar I will go
to God, my chiefest joy;
O God, my God, to praise thy name
my harp I will employ.

Why art thou then cast down, my soul?
What should discourage thee?
And why with vexing thoughts art thou
disquieted in me?

Thou art my refuge and my help,
my God that doth me raise.
I hope in God; I will again
have cause to give thee praise.

The paraphrase is good.  It skips over the first section of the Psalm and then follows quite closely for three verses without any strange syntax in order to achieve rhymes.  The final verse is a combination of lines from the opening sequence of the Psalm and the last two lines. 

The tune for this hymn is also a good one.  I prefer it without the use of the half-notes at phrase endings.  I believe they were put in to approximate the traditional practice of putting a fermata at the end of each phrase.  I’m not sure about the half notes at the beginning of the phrases, they seem a bit gratuitous.  Check out the rhythm in hymn 76 to see how much more nicely it flows.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Seven


Seventh in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #26

As Pants the Heart

Psalm 42
Martydrom
Paraphrase, Tate and Brady’s New Version 1696
Music: Hugh Wilson (1766-1824) 
public domain
 
As pants the hart for cooling streams
when heated in the chase,
so longs my sou, O God, for thee
and thy refreshing grace.For thee, my God, the living God,

my thirsty soul doth pine;
oh when shall I behold thy face,
thou majesty divine?Why restless, why cast down, my soul?

Trust God, who will employ
sure aid for thee, and change these sighs
to thankful humns of joy.God of my strength, how long shall I,

like one forgotten, mourn,
forlorn, forsaken and exposed
to my oppressor’s scorn?Why restless, why cast down, my soul?

Hope still, and thou shalt sing
praise to thy God, the living God,
thy health’s eternal spring.

The lyrics for this hymn are a paraphrase and of the three parahprase versions of Psalm 42 in the Book of Praise, this is the one which covers the majority of the Psalm. The phrasing in the first two verses fit with the pattern of the music perfectly while the other three continue through the midpoint.  Because of this and the fact that most of us need to breathe, the meaning tends to be lost or at least muddled.

The tune for hymn 26 isn’t my favourite.  There are many other 8686CM tunes in the BOP which would work if you don’t like this one.  Despite the fact that the paraphrase is better, I would choose hymn 25 which uses the English folk tune O Waly, Waly or 27 with it’s own tune As The Deer.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn#19


Sixth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #19

High in the heavens, eternal God

Psalm 36
Song 34
Paraphrase, Isaac Watts
Music: Orlando Gibbons.
 
High in the heavens. eternal God,
thy goodness in full glory shines:
thy truth shall break through every cloud
that veils and darkens thy desings.
 
Forever firm thy justice stands,
as mountains their foundaions keep;
wise are the wonders of they hands;
thy judgements are a mighty deep.
 
From the provisions of thy house
we shall be fed with sweet repast;
there mercy like a river flows
and brings salvation to our taste.
 
Life, like a fountain, rich and free,
springs from the presence of the Lord,
and in thy light our souls shall see
the glories promised in thy word.
 

Today I think I’ll begin with the music for this hymn.  I would not recommend using the music provided for hymn #19.  There is an alternate suggested which is Truro which is somewhat better (hymn #251).  I think if I wanted to use the paraphrase I would do it to the tune Angelus (hymn #516) which lilts along quite nicely in 3 and would be somewhat familiar as the common baptism hymn ‘A little child the saviour came’.

The paraphrase itself is nice and even metricaly speaking but, as seems to be a trend, I don’t really like parts of it.  Starting at verse 7 of the Psalm it says;
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light. (NRSV)

I don’t think the third verse is very clear in its meaning.  The Psalm speaks of feasting on abundance and drinking from the river of delights.  I don’t really see that as the same as “we shall be fed with sweet repast; there mercy like a river flows and brings salvation to our taste.”  I expect the phrasing is, again, chosen to match the rhyme scheme of the poem, but repast and taste do not even rhyme so it makes it awkward and confusing without accmomlishing the goal.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn#15


Fifth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #15

The Lord’s my light

Psalm 27
St. Magnus
Paraphrase, Scottish  Psalter 1650
Music: Jeremiah Clarke, from Divine Companion 1707  public domain.
 
The Lord’s my light and saving health;
who shall make me dismayed?
God is the stronghold of my life:
who shall make me afraid?
 
Though wars arise and armies camp
against me, I’ll not fear;
I will stand firma
 and confident:
I know that God is near.
 
One thing I asked of God the Lord,
and will seek to obtain,
that all days of my life I may
within God’s house remain;
 
that I the beauty of the Lord
may worship and admire,
that I in God’s most holy place
may reverently enquire.
 
In evil, troubled days, my God
will hide and shelter me,
and raise me high upon a rock
above my enemy.
 
Now I will offer sacrifice
for all God’s saving grace,
with melody unto the Lord
and joyful shouts of praise!

If you have been following this series it is quite likely that as you read through the lyrics you said to yourself, “I know the first thing Cathy is going to comment on!”  If you did that, in reference to the third and fourth verses, you are spot on!  A verse in a song should not, or at least would not normally, begin with a lower case letter as each verse should be complete unto itself!  Since the paraphrase goes over eight phrases rather than four, perhaps a melody should have been chosen which was done in eight phrase verses.  Another option would have been to have a bridge inserted to carry those extra lines of verse three, rather than calling it verse four.

The tune St. Magnus is a pretty familiar melody, at least in the churches in my area.  In 4/4 time, the range is not wide and it is easy to sing.  It is used for four of the hymns in the Book of Praise all of which will be included, eventually, in this series.  It is also used frequently to substitute for less familiar tunes for hymns which follow the 8686 meter such as In Christ there is no east and west.  It is frequently used as a melody for the Gloria Patri;

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
the God whom we adore
be glory as it was and is
and shall be evermore.

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise #9


 

Hymn #9

How blest are they, who, fearing God

Psalm 19
St. Andrew
Paraphrase, Scottish Psalter 1650 
Music: William Tans’ur’s New Harmony of Zion 1764
 
God’s law is perfect and converts
the soul in sin that lies:
God’s testimony is most sure
and makes the simple wise.
 
The statutes of the Lord are right
and do rejoice the heart:
the Lord’s command is pure, and doth
light to the eyes impart.
 
Unspotted is the fear of God
and ever doth endure;
the judgements of the Lord are true
together, right and sure.
 
They more than gold, yea much fine gold,
to be desired are
than honey, honey from the comb
that droppeth, sweeter far.
 
Moreover, they thy servants warn
how they their life should frame:
a great reward provided is
for them that keep the same.

If you recall, in my last Praise Notes I mentioned that I am not a fan of hymns in which the paraphrase needs to twist around to match the tune.  Hymn #9 has one verse which does this.  If you don’t take time to puzzle it out, this verse is just a series of words to a pretty tune.   The meaning is that God’s laws are desired more than fine gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.  All this twisting of sentence structure was done to retain a rhyme scheme.  I personally would have preferred that it not rhyme and make some sense.  I believe this sort of thing is a large part of the reason people feel that the traditional hymns of the Christian church are outdated and boring.

 

As for the music, William Tans’ur wrote a pleasant lilting melody.  The harmonies are pleasant, although the alto part does spend most of the time on one of three notes.  The bass and tenor lines are a bit more interesting to sing.  All together a good piece of music which only appears once in the book as the prescribed melody.  Another of his pieces, Bangor,  comes up elswhere in the Book of Praise at #s 6, 232 and 751 and won’t be part of my series as the lyrics for all three are still under copyright.  It is a lovely composition, written in a minor key.