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.