One Easter Psalm

Psalm 30 is appointed for the Lectionary for the Third Sunday of Easter, cycle C. Yesterday’s psalm, in fact. It also appears after the prescribed Isaiah 54 reading in the Easter Vigil. Twice in fifteen days.

Our parish repertoire includes Paul Inwood’s setting, “I Will Praise You, Lord.” But I’ve been looking for something different for the past year, knowing Easter Vigil needed a change, and that one of Easter’s Sundays, too, was soon to follow. My main problem with the setting my parish has used is that the refrain is just too long for a piece of music we sing at most twice a year. Psalm 30 isn’t a common psalm for any of the seasons, either. I suppose if I wanted to prepare our core parishioners, I would program it as a Communion song during Lent. (That’s my helpful hint for any new psalmody for the Vigil: use it during Lent, even in place of one of the “sandwich” songs.)

To make the Inwood setting work, I’ve found I need to slow the verses down significantly. I think the refrain sings a well at a good pace. Paul uses the ’63 Grail translation, and the psalmist has a lot of words to spit out. Last year’s cantor fussed a bit about the small differences in the verses. We needed something different, and I had a brainstorm the week after Ash Wednesday.

I turned to By Flowing Waters, and used Paul Ford’s adaptation there, number 135. The musicians and psalmists are usually willing to try anything I put in front of them. My Vigil choir director and her son, a fine cantor and ISU student, were game for the Vigil. But I was asked about accompaniment. “Nope,” I said. “This psalm is from the Roman musical collections. There is no accompaniment edition.” I suggested if they wanted to work something up, I was fine with that. It had kind of a Spanish flavor–at least that’s what my tongue suggested when I sang it through early last month. Guitar and voice–that would be enough. So for the Vigil, that’s what they did.

For my Sunday musicians, I had to score an accompaniment. Not all of our cantors are at home with a cappella chant. There was also a hint of fuss about the layout in the published book. Ah, I thought; these folks aren’t used to texts pointed and highlighted.

One cantor asked if she could bail–a busy week at work–and sing something familiar. Otherwise the other three did okay. I was up for accompanying the 10:30 choir, so I used my guitar to assist cantor and congregation. The people in the pews did quite well with it; I was pleased. Few probably realized it was plainsong at all.

If any readers care to comment on the thread below, let us know:

- your favorite settings of Psalm 30

- your favorite BFW settings, if you’re familiar with the collection.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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5 Responses to One Easter Psalm

  1. Adam Wood says:

    I wish more Catholics were comfortable with a cappella singing- chant and otherwise. As much as I love a full contingent of instruments, the simplicity of unaccompanied song brings us so quickly into the heart of true worship. I also find that unaccompanied choir singing is one of the best encouragements to full-bodied congregational singing.

    Also- Thanks for introducing me to Paul Ford’s work. He wasn’t on my radar, and it looks right up my alley.

  2. Liam says:

    Psalm 30 is the psalm I turned to when God rescued me from a 4-year darkness when I was 17. It is the core psalm for my spirituality (though the pride in v6 was not at all the context that preceded my darkness).

  3. Katherine says:

    Last Saturday evening I pulled out BFW’s Easter version of the psalm to accompany the Sprinkling Rite (“Springs of water …”). I just sang it alone, but hope next time the congregation will join in the antiphon. I think I got through three of the verses in the time it took the celebrant to get around the church.

    I haven’t done a lot from BFW, but would like to work on that, will look at Ps 30/#135. Using the pointed/highlighted text IS tricky for people who are not used to it. But it’s a skill worth learning and practicing for cantors.

    I also used the Regina Coeli (first Latin, then English) for the closing hymn, a cappella. Worked just fine.

  4. Tony Barr says:

    At the risk of great personal hubris,, I’d like to offer my own setting of Psalm 30, and that of my wife, Marcy Weckler Barr. I have completed the entire responsorial cycle twice now, and am responding to a third commission from St Frances Cabrini parish in Minneapolis. I’ll gladly send you a copy; just e-mail tbarrjabulani@comcast.net, and it’s yours for the asking.

  5. Matthew J. Meloche says:

    The setting of The Reproaches from By Flowing Waters is my favorite setting. It lacks the Trisagion, but I wrote my own to go along with it. The melody is haunting, in the right way for that moment of the liturgy.

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