Johann Baptist Metz described biblical Israel as a “landscape of cries, a landscape of memory of expectation,” in contrast to the brilliant, flourishing cultures of the ancient world—Egypt, Persia, Greece. Those diverse cries are most clearly heard in the book of Psalms, a book which recapitulates the entire scriptural story; St Athanasius describes the Psalter as a garden which grows the fruit of every other book of the Bible. Music for Christian worship has thus always centered on the Psalms: the text articulates those cries, while the music situates us as hearers, forcing us into the role of “the coming generation” (Ps 78:4), fusing ancient words and modern melodies.
The Psalms offer cries of despair, like in Mandell’s desolate Psalm of Deliverance, and in his Lamentations arrangement. A Byzantine arrangement of Psalm 136/137, By the Waters of Babylon, highlights our singing in a strange land.
The Psalms offer cries of longing: for God’s peace, as in Budinich’s Peace, O Lord, composed specially for the SVOTS Octet; for unity, heard in Pärt’s Habitare fratres in unum; for the face of God, as in Palestrina’s Sicut cervus. The Psalms give us words for praising God—a traditional Georgian Aliluia, zakkak’s modern arrangement of Praise the Lord for the Liturgy, a call to Come, Bless the Lord in Ippolitov-Ivanov’s classic setting, and in the Octet’s familiar rendition of Kedrov’s Bless the Lord.
The Psalms are polyvalent in their musical possibilities. We hear the traditional Russian arrangements of Chesnokov’s Da ispravitsa (“Let My Prayer Arise”), Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Bless the Lord, O my Soul, Arkhangelsky’s O Lord of Hosts, and Lvovsky’s O Taste and See; the modern Russian stylings of Kallinikov’s Blazhen muzh (“Blessed is the man”), the Byzantine Arise, O God, an Alaskan setting of The Lord is My Shepherd, and American settings like Reeves’ Wedding Hymn and Babcock’s Gratitude.
It is not easy to live within a landscape of cries, especially amidst the glittering magnets of our palliative society. May our singing of these Psalms serve as your songbook and road map for that landscape.
1 Habitare fratres in unum (1:59) - Arvo Pärt (arr. R. Freeman)*
2 Praise the Lord (3:15) - nazo zakkak, Soloist: Zachariah Mandell
3 Wedding Hymn (3:30) - Nicholas Reeves
4 Blazhen muzh (3:55) - Viktor Kallinikov (arr. Izhogin)
5 O Taste and See (2:40) - after G. Lvovsky (arr. A. Malutin)
6 Arise, O God (5:37) - Byzantine Chant, Soloists: Fr Andrew Honoré, Fr Gregory Potter
7 O Lord of Hosts (7:01) - Valaam Monastery Chant (arr. A. Arkhangelsky); Soloists: Phillip Ritchey, Brenden Link, Fr Christopher Moore, Zachariah Mandell
8 Bless the Lord, O My Soul (1:33) - Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (arr. P. Chesnokov)
9 A Psalm of Deliverance (1:37) - Zachariah Mandell
10 Lamentations for Holy Saturday (4:44) - Galician Chant (arr. Z. Mandell), Soloist: Phillip Ritchey
11 By the Waters of Babylon (5:33) - Byzantine Chant, Soloist: Dn John (Rassem) El Massih
12 Sicut cervus (2:31) - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
13 Da ispravitsa molitva moya (5:54) - Pavel Chesnokov, Soloist: Phillip Ritchey
14 Come, Bless the Lord (2:31) - Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, (arr. N. Kedrov, Jr)
15 The Lord is My Shepherd (1:58) - Archpriest Martin Nicolai
16 Aliluia (1:32) - Georgian Chant
17 Peace, O Lord (3:25) - James Budinich
18 Bless the Lord (3:11) - Greek Chant (arr. N. Kedrov, Sr)
19 Gratitude (2:50) - Samuel Babcock
* Arvo Pärt “Habitare fratres in unum | Psalmus 133 (132) | für Chor (S,A/Ct,T,B) oder Vokalensemble
(S/Ct,A/Ct,T,B) a cappella” © Copyright 2012 by Universal Edition A.G., Wien/UE35900 Arrangement
by Robin Freeman © Copyright 2019 by Universal Edition A.G., Wien.
Love this music!