Tag Archives: song

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 64


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

Hymn #64

Be still and know that I am God

BE STILL AND KNOW
Words: anonymous
Music: anonymous
 
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust. 

I like this well-known hymn despite its repetitive lyrics.  It is in the repetition that one is able to rest and, be still.

Similar to the repetition in the lyrics the melody has a simple pattern with a rising line between two falling lines.  The triple rhythm has a soothing almost rocking feel which adds to the stillness even more.


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.


What Will Your Song Be? part 2


When you hear of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, do you immediately think of her quick thinking that allowed her mother to be the nursemaid for her brother under the protection of the
Pharaoh’s daughter?  Maybe you think of when she and Aaron challenge Moses’ authority since God had also spoken through
both of them at which time she was punished, being struck with leprosy and Aaron and Moses plead for her healing.  I think she is most readily associated with this simple song of celebration at being rescued from a terrible fate.  Scholars believe, in fact, that the original song on the shore of the sea was the simple two line celebration song of Miriam and that the longer version, attributed to Moses and the men, was actually written much later.  If you study the lines in terms of poetry this makes a lot of sense as there is no use of simile or metaphor in the two lines, no sign of exalted language, just the most basic and important facts.  Miriam is known for her song, for what will you and I be remembered?

Mary, unlike Miriam but much more like most of us, was a total nobody to the greater community of the tribes of Israel.  She
was pregnant but not married, the father was God.  What she had to look forward to was being the central figure of all the local gossip, being shunned, and probably losing her fiancé.  She sang in thanksgiving for news which most young women would have thought was going to totally mess up their lives!  Mary sang when she greeted her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant, whom she visited right away after receiving her news.  There were no
instruments, no dancing, and no big crowd.  But she sang about being the most fortunate woman on earth and of all the good things that God had done for Israel since the days of Abraham.  She praised him for showing strength to bring down the tyrants, and his mercy in pulling up the victims, filling the hungry, and his faithfulness in remembering his promises to Abraham.  Obviously Mary is known for much more than her song, and yet it is the Magnificat, a song sung with almost no audience at all, which has become a part of liturgy.  We don’t need a crowd, we don’t need drums and trumpets to sing our songs.

Our children have begun another school year complete with the new shoes, the indoor and outdoor, the backpacks, binders, duo tangs, pens, pencils, erasers, etc. and a teacher/student ratio of no more than 1:29.  In Dadaab, currently the world’s largest
refugee camp, there are currently 156,000 school-age children.  Of those, 40,000 children now prepare to go back to school as well, but at a ratio of 1:100.  According to the UN, the camps are in desperate need of 1,800 more classrooms and the teachers to go with them. 

Whatever our place in the world, whatever our status in our culture, whether we are “somebodies” or “nobodies” we have a call to sing.  To be clear, while I firmly believe that everyone can sing music, it is not necessarily singing music to which I refer.   Anything you do to create harmony in the world, whatever you do in praise of God, whatever you do at God’s urging can be your song!  The feature of the September, 2011 issue of The Presbyterian Record is all about the Presbyterian women’s gathering which was held in the spring.  The theme was “Looking In, Shouting Out”.  At this event women from every province in Canada as well as from 12 partner countries met for workshops and worship on topics ranging from Caring for Creation, Nurtuting a Christian Family, Muslim Women-Myths and Facts, Yoga as Christian Practice, Bullying in Canada, and Women in Poverty.  The presenters of the workshops were shouting out!  They were
singing their songs!  And what of the over 500 who attended these workshops and worship services?  You don’t attend this kind of conference unless you already have a deep desire to make a change in the world, and these women were there preparing themselves to sing at home in their churches and communities, and perhaps even beyond.

I’ve been watching a British TV show lately called Ballykissangel.  It is about an English Priest who ends up
posted to a church in a little town in Ireland and all his misadventures.  Recently I watched an episode in which there
was a reporter who uncovered a scandal involving a local businessman and political candidate.  When the politician
suggested that the reporter was just, “whistling in the wind.”  the reporter’s response was that he was unable to whistle but he could  certainly sing really well!  He was not going to
keep a lid on the story; he was going to sing it out so that everyone would know.  Whether or not we can whistle, we
can all sing in some way or other to let everyone know about the great things God has done for us through his son Jesus.  In the words of a song by the Carpenters;

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.
 
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.
 
Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.
 
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

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.