Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Liturgy and Hymnody Review: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Messiah: Selections from The Book of Psalms for Worship. Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2010. Audio CD. $15.00. (H) 

Meditation: Selections from The Book of Psalms for Worship. Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2010. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Our previous review of The Book of Psalms for Worship  (hereafter BPW) is one of QBR's most popular blog posts. (See

We were pleased to receive two more CDs of recordings of selections from this new Psalter.

And we have already found opportunities to put them to use.

Divine Service on Maundy Thursday concludes with the Stripping of the Altar and Psalm 22.

Last week, our congregation sang Psalm 22 to the tune VENI EMMANUEL, 22B in BPW, LSB 357. And yes, we sang all fourteen stanzas, twice the length of the 12th Century text, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," based on The Great "O Antiphons."

The congregation knew the tune well because of its use in Advent and at Christmas. It helped tie Holy Week and Lent to the other preparatory season of Advent. And we had plenty of time to remove the Communionware, candlabra, paraments, books, and linens in preparation for Good Friday.

Our bulletin included the following:
Stripping of the Altar
The communion vessels are reverently removed from the altar, the altar is stripped, and the chancel is cleared in preparation for the solemn services of Good Friday.

 Psalm 22 is sung using a familiar hymn tune (next pages)

Psalm 22 is taken from The Book of Psalms for Worship
©2009 Crown and Covenant Publications,
7408 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15208-2531.
Used by permission.
Crown and Covenant is generous with their legal copyright usage. See BPW (ii, 559) for more details or visit the publisher's website for long-term use.

Meditation records "Psalm 119 sung in its entirety from The Book of Psalms for Worship. Includes selections 119A through 119W" (publisher's website).

I like the variety in arrangements on this recording. Listeners won't be mere listeners for long, as they will begin singing along with the four part harmony, or the Trios, Duets, and Solos. (One typo in the liner notes on the Trios section: 199V should be 119 V.)

Singing Psalm 119A through 119W in BPW seems less daunting than reciting it without accompaniment. This Psalm seems to use some new-to-me "workhorse tunes" that do their job well of supporting the text. I would be very interested in hearing the history behind them as compositions, as a "hymnal companion" resource often provides. 

Among the notable pairings of text and tune are 119J with EVENTIDE, 119N and TALLIS' CANON, 119Q with NETTLETON, 119S and COVENTRY CAROL, 119U with HAMBURG, and 119V and HURSLEY. These tunes are sufficiently well-known that congregations familiar with these tunes could immediately pick up these portions of Psalm 119 and sing joyfully.

Messiah includes "Messianic psalms from The Book of Psalms for Worship. Includes selections 89D, 61B, 89A, 132B, 8A, 2D, 91C, 41B, 40A, 22B, 22C, 16D, 20B, 21A, 47C, 110D, 45A, 72A, 24A, 98A, 99A, 102D, 21B, 22E, 96B, 72B, 72C, and 118E. Selections are performed by Tim and Kaylee McCracken" (publisher's website).

Tim McCracken and his daughter Kaylee sound wonderful together. This recording gives evidence of regular worship together at church and home. Tim on both Tenor and Bass and Kaylee on both Soprano and Alto provide a unique listening experience. There is a slight distortion to the recording that is quite pleasing and rather heavenly.

Psalm 22, of course is referenced in the New Testament at Matthew 27:35, 29, and 43; Mark 15:24, and 34; Luke 23:34; John 19:24; and Philippians 3:2. Those references are also listed for the rest of this recording's Messianic Psalms inside the CD case.

Tunes on this recording will encourage congregations and musicians to expand their musical repertoire. Few were familiar to me with the exception of 22B's VENI EMMANUEL, 47C's GOD REST YOU MERRY, 110D's TERRA BEATA, 72A's TRURO, 24A's TO GOD BE THE GLORY, 21B's ELLACOMBE, and 72B's DUKE STREET.

It appears that tunes are selected for some Psalm texts to provide similar connotations to singing historic hymns (EVENTIDE, NETTLETON, ELLACOMBE, DUKE STREET). Often, in my opinion, the psalm text chosen is better than the original hymn text or commonly used hymn text (TERRA BEATA, TRURO, TO GOD, etc.)

We would love to see Hallel and Faithfulness, other recordings of selections from The Book of Psalms for Worship.

Martin Luther recommended that Christians sing more psalms and that medieval Graduals and Introits, both parts of psalms,  could be replaced by whole psalms. I agree. Lutheran Christians have opportunities to pray psalms at Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline. And we should avail ourselves of every opportunity.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.