Monday, June 27, 2016

Resources for Learning to Sing the Psalms

By Robin G. Jordan

One of my readers asked me if I knew of any good instructional recordings on how to learn to chant the Psalms. This prompted me to search the Internet for resources that might be helpful to her and other readers interested in learning to chant the Psalms. Listed below are some of the resources that I found and which I think may be helpful. I have also listed a number of resources for those interested in singing metrical Psalms.

All three methods of singing the Psalms – plainsong, Anglican chant, and metrical Psalms – have a long history in the Anglican Church. Of the three methods, Anglican chant requires an SATB choir. Plainsong and metrical Psalms can be sung by a unison choir, small ensemble, or soloist. All three methods require the right kind of acoustical environment. Plainsong and Anglican chant cannot be sung in an acoustical environment with the wrong resonance or no resonance at all. While metrical Psalms are less dependent upon the acoustical environment in which they are sung, they will not sound as they ought to in a poor acoustical environment. A number of early metrical Psalm tunes are based upon chant.

Psalmody Project Study Materials:

Lists several websites that may be helpful to those seeking to learn how to chant the Psalms.

This site has videos in which several plainsong Psalm tones are demonstrated. You can pick up the tones from listening to them. I recognized a number of the tones.

The Manual of Plainsong, 1902 edition:   

This manual contains the English Book of Common Prayer (1662) offices set to Gregorian tones. It provides pointing for the Psalms as well as the canticles and the other parts of the offices.

An introduction to the Psalms and Psalm singing

The basics of chanting a Psalm.

Sing the Psalms video: Wednesday Psalm 147 1-11:

This video provides the text of Psalm 147 and demonstrates how to chant the psalm.

How to Read and Sing Gregorian Chant:   

Some of the lessons on this website devoted to chanting the Psalms in Latin may be helpful.

A discussion of Anglican chant on the Musica Sacra forum.

A good list of psalms available for hearing on Youtube.

Chanting the Psalms: A Practical Guide with Instructional CD:

The description of the book and the CD on Amazon.Com:
Chanting the psalms, or psalmody, is an ancient practice of vital importance in the Christian spiritual tradition. Today many think of it as a discipline that belongs only in monasteries—but psalmody is a spiritual treasure that is available to anyone who prays. You don’t need to be musical or a monk to do it, and it can be enjoyed in church liturgical worship, in groups, or even individually as part of a personal rule of prayer. Cynthia Bourgeault brings the practice into the twenty-first century, providing a history of Christian psalmody as well as an appreciation of its place in contemplative practice today. And she teaches you how to do it as you chant along with her on the accompanying CD in which she demonstrates the basic techniques and easy melodies that anyone can learn. “Even if you can’t read music,” Cynthia says, “or if somewhere along the way you’ve absorbed the message that your voice is no good or you can’t sing on pitch, I’ll still hope to show you that chanting the psalms is accessible to nearly everyone.”
I have not reviewed the book or listened to the CD so I cannot comment on how helpful they might be.

An introduction to Archbishop Parker’s Psalter—a metrical Psalter prepared by Elizabeth I’s first Archbishop of Canterbury. .

An introduction to the nine tunes Thomas Tallis composed for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

An article I wrote on the early metrical Psalters used in the Elizabethan Church. It includes a link to a selection of Archbishop Parker’s metrical settings of the Psalms sung to Tallis’ tunes, a link to the whole Psalter, and a link to Sternhold and Hopkins Old Version.

The whole Psalter translated into English metre : which contayneth an hundred and fifty Psalmes ; the first quinquagene:

The first edition of Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

A New Version of the Psalms of David in Metre:

Tate and Brady's New Version was used well into the nineteenth century and formed a large part of the repertoire of the “village quires” along with the hymns of John Newton, Isaac Watts, and John and Charles Wesley.

Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts:

The texts of the Psalms and hymns written by Isaac Watts.

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