We all know that the Psalms were originally meant to be sung. There is, wonderfully, a new movement these days, mostly grassroots, to put music to the Psalms and put them into the hands of the congregations. I’ve jumped on that bandwagon a little, providing an explanation of Simplified Anglican Chant, and I know others others on YouTube and even in the ACNA have made resources to encourage and enable to chant the psalms.
The wonderful thing about chant is that it provides you with some very simple music that you can then apply to any set of lyrics. You don’t have to “learn a whole song”, just memorize a few notes and get a feel for where in each half-verse to move from note to note, and you’re good to go. What makes Anglican Chant different from historic Plainchant is that 1, the chant tunes are written in more recent times and are rarely “tied down” to any particular Psalm or Canticle, and 2, ours come with classical four-part harmonies allowing a choir (or at least a keyboardist) to beautify the music.
What I thought would be fun to try today is providing a set of examples of how one short Psalm can be done in different styles of chant. This will, I think, help clarify how the more “complicated” forms of chant work, by working our way up to them through some simpler forms.
Here’s the text as used:
1 I will lift up my eyes un|to the | hills; *
from | whence | comes my | help?
2 My help comes | from the | Lord, *
who | has made | heaven and | earth.
3 He will not let your | foot be | moved, *
and he who | keeps you | will not | sleep.
4 Behold, he who keeps | Israel *
shall | neither | slumber nor | sleep.
5 The Lord himself | is your | keeper; *
The Lord is your defense | upon | your right | hand,
6 So that the sun shall not burn |you by | day, *
nei|ther the | moon by | night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you| from all | evil; *
indeed, it is he | who shall | keep your | soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your | coming | in, *
from this time | forth for|ever|more.
– Sample 1 –
Omitting the usual Gloria Patri at the end of the Psalm, here it simply read aloud with the musical rhythm of the ending of each verse in mind. Always make sure you can read the Psalm comfortably before you sing or chant it!
– Sample 2 –
Now let’s use Fr. Ben Jeffries’ Simplified Plainchant.
– Sample 3 –
Next let’s move up to Simplified Anglican Chant. This and the following images are from the hymnal, Book of Common Praise 2017.
– Sample 4 –
Now we’re ready for a fully-fledged Anglican Chant. First let’s go for a Single Chant, which means each verse gets the same tune.
– Sample 5 –
Last of all, here’s a Double Chant, meaning the repeated tune spans two verses.
3 thoughts on “Singing Psalm 121”
Great article! I am from Slovakia (Europe), and I really enjoy english church music!
I would like to ask
– what Bible translation is used in this article?
– how should I adapt the “Gloria Patri” to the doublechant musical pattern mentioned in the end of your article?
Thank you very much in advance for your response!
Thanks for the comment! The translation is that found in the Anglican Prayer Books, done by Miles Coverdale. I might have used the ‘New Coverdale Psalter’ in the 2019 prayer book, though.
As for the Gloria, there are a couple ways it can be rendered. The first half is always the same:
Glory be to the Father, and | to the Son, *
and | to the Holy Ghost/Spirit
the second half will be:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and | ever shall be, *
world | without end. A-men.
world without | e-nd. A-men.
If you look up Anglican chant examples on youtube, and skip to the end of them, you will find the Gloria Patri in its various renderings… Hearing examples is probably the easiest way to learn it.
Thank you very much for your response!! 🙂