Metrical Psalms for Advent

I want to encourage the use of psalms in liturgy. To this end I have committed to compiling a small booklet of metrical psalms for use this coming Advent (Year B). As with everything else I publish I will release the work under a CC BY-SA licence so that other people can use it, free of charge, without having to bother me for permission.

I aim to have two settings of each of the psalms for the main Sunday morning service, one with a very well-known hymn tune and one perhaps a little less well-known (I might even write something myself). I will include full music, and also a “lead sheet” version with the melody line and chords. The psalms will have an optional refrain, so that they can be sung congregationally (without the refrain) or in the “responsorial” style with the choir/music group/whoever singing the verses, and the congregation joining in with the refrain. I used this method of metrical psalm singing quite successfully in my own parish, St Andrew’s Leytonstone, during Lent.

There is a catch, however. Most of the public domain metrical settings of the psalms use language that, at best, is considered archaic. Some of the older settings are quite difficult to understand. While that might be all right for the choir at St Andrew’s, where people have a fairly high tolerance for “old-fashioned” language, I do think it might be difficult in other contexts.

To this end I would like some modern metrical settings of the following psalms:

Advent I Psalm 80:1-8,18-20
Advent II Psalm 85:1-2,8-13
Advent III Psalm 126
Advent IV Psalm 89.1-4,19-26
(These are all from RSCM’s “Sunday by Sunday”, so please tell me if I’ve got the lectionary wrong…)

It would, of course, make sense to add these translations or paraphrases to Psalter Commons. Some of them have been shortened in order to be a sensible length for congregational worship; that’s the lectionary’s suggestion, not mine, so please feel free to include a bit more if the text sits better that way.

A modern metrical setting of the Magnificat (listed as an alternative to the psalm on Advent III or Advent IV) would also be useful, but this is not as crucial as there are serviceable settings already available in many hymnals (Timothy Dudley-Smith’s “Tell out my soul” is perhaps the best known).

I’ve promised people I’ll have this booklet done by mid-November, so I really, really need the text by the end of October. Do let me know if you’d like to help out.


Psalter Commons

I have a new project! It’s called Psalter Commons and I would love your help with it.

I’d like the words of the psalms to be freely available for liturgy and study, but copyright law means the only truly free translations are quite old.

If you have translated or paraphrased a psalm or many psalms, please feel free to add the texts! They don’t need to have music, though if you do have music that’s great too. If you know of existing public domain psalters not listed on the category page please add those, too, preferably with links. Using a wiki is easy and quicky, er, quick.

More background details:

I have often whinged about the lack of freely-accessible, modern-language, metrical settings of psalms available these days. The older psalms available in the public domain are glorious! I do love them, and I’m very glad to have a chance to sing them fairly regularly in London Gallery Quire (though I play the serpent more often than I sing, I still get to read the words as I usually play from a vocal score). However, the language is considered archaic by many, and in some cases the translations are a bit suspect too, compared to modern scholarship.

There are modern metrical translations. Some of them are even included in the Christian Copyright Licensing Initiative (CCLI), which means that for a fee and with a lot of paperwork, we’re allowed to make copies of the words — if we’ve already bought a copy of whatever book they’re in. That’s admirable, but for a small parish like St Andrew’s it’s still a pretty high barrier to use. Why not just release them under a CC-BY-SA license and let everyone use them? Then I would be able to write my own musical settings if I wanted to, or set them to existing hymn tunes where appropriate.

There are accessibility difficulties with prose translations, too. The Common Worship Psalter publication terms aren’t too bad for liturgical use but if I want to use that material in a separate piece of music I have to write an ask for permission. The Coverdale psalms which are usually bound with the Book of Common Prayer, and those in the King James Authorised Version of the bible, are commonly thought to be in the public domain, but in the UK they’re actually under strange special copyright laws which mean that, again, I would need to ask for permission to use them.

So, I was having my usual moan and a friend offered to set up and host a wiki. It seemed like a better idea than just whingeing, so I said yes.

I hope that Psalter Commons will eventually become a valuable resource for anyone interested in the psalms for study and liturgical purposes. It will take a lot more work than I could do myself, which is why a wiki makes so much sense — now others who are interested can join in. Please do, and please send this page to others who might be interested.

In the great congregation I will praise…

Though my diocesan cathedral in Chelmsford is a bit of a trek for me, I’m privileged in London to be within easy travel distance of both St Paul’s Cathedral and Southwark Cathedral.
Yesterday, partly out of curiosity and partly out of a desire to attend a service that I couldn’t mess up by playing the organ in the wrong place, I attended the Chrism Mass (actually called “The Renewal of Ordination Vows and the Blessing of the Oils” on the order of service) at Southwark Cathedral. In the Church of England, this is the service at which Chrism oils are blessed and at which clergy renew their ordination vows. It was a good service, and I’m glad that I went. The Mass setting by Langlais was perhaps a tad inaccessible, but if you can’t sing Latin and some crunchy harmonies when you’ve got several hundred clergy who all know what the words mean, when can you sing them? Certainly there were bowed heads when the Sanctus came around, so I’m sure the vast majority knew what was going on.

Accessibility was also my concern with the Psalm. The choir sang their verses of Psalm 23 beautifully enough that, at first, I wondered whether my previous disdain for responsorial psalmody might be unjustified. I don’t know whose setting it was; it isn’t the one in the only book of responsorial psalmody I own, and by the time I’ve looked it up anywhere else I’ll probably have forgotten it. It was simple, the text was clear, and when the choir broke into four-part harmony for the last four lines it was simply sublime; I think it was some of the best choral singing I heard during the service.

Why, then, interrupt this with a congregational response? The response itself was interesting enough, but I struggled to remember it correctly after hearing it twice and singing it once. Perhaps I’m just getting too dependent on having dots in front of me! But switching from unmetered chant to a metrical response without some sort of indication of tempo is hard in a small congregation and even harder in a large one. I felt like an unwieldy, oversized ox in a specialist china shop for dolls. I value congregational participation in the psalms, but given the nature of most of the congregation — ordained clergy and the odd “church geek” layperson such as myself — I think that just the chant without any congregational singing might well have been participatory enough. It would have been better had the response had some sort of metrical introduction, but even that might not be heard clearly in an echo-y cathedral with an organ. I was too far away to see the musical director well enough to follow any directions given to the choir.

(The psalm was also labeled as Psalm 133 — a wonderful psalm to use at a Chrism Mass, given the focus on unity and the imagery of oil — but the psalm they sang was definitely Psalm 23. I can only attribute this to a clerical error!)

By contrast, I absolutely loved the hymnody; there is something about singing hymns with several hundred other people singing their hearts out that is just too good for words. I was disappointed we didn’t make it to the end of “Lift high the cross” (which I’ve sung so seldom I didn’t actually remember the tune) and none of the hymns were real favourites of mine, but there was none of the lumbering uncertainty I felt during the psalm. Ordinarily I prefer good metrical hymnody in full parish churches to cathedrals, for some of the same acoustic, aesthetic reasons I didn’t like the psalm response: in a big echo-y space, chances are you’ve got to go slowly enough to spoil the line, and if the place isn’t absolutely rammed (and even sometimes when it is) people tend to sing quietly under their breath so that the general effect is that of an indecisive jellyfish; I usually end up listening carefully for the organ and choir and trying to stick with them while people around me mumble into their hymn books, and I really struggle if there’s a tune I don’t know. But in this instance everyone was singing, the tempo was on the whole right for the space without being too slow to get through a line in one breath, and it was all quite wonderful. I really enjoyed being able to sing without feeling like I had to take the lead for twelve people sitting near me who had no idea what the tune was, and being able to let my voice follow others when I didn’t know the notes. Maybe this is what hymns were like, or could be like, when there was more general enthusiasm about singing. Maybe this is what hymns can still be like if people can be convinced to sing! It was one of the best experiences of congregational singing I’ve had for a long time.

Psalm 31 vv 9-16 to Aylesbury

This is the last of the metrical Psalms for this Lent. On Maundy Thursday we’ll be singing Psalm 22, right enough, but it will be a chanted version using the Common Worship text. The plan is to keep that very simple: two notes only, a minor third apart.

I wanted to use the opportunity to teach the choir (and expose the congregation) to another good tune that’s in the New English Hymnal but which we don’t seem to sing very much. It is perhaps a bit dreary for the repeated insistence of the response, “That thou, my God, art good and just, my soul with comfort knows,” but the repeated request to see God’s mercy fits it very well. Again, I wanted something relatively easy — there’s an awful lot going on already on Psalm Sunday, what with processions to the forest, palm crosses and so on.

I chose Brady and Tate’s “New Version” for this psalm portion not because I especially liked the text, but because the Scottish Psalter and Sternhold and Hopkins’ “Old Version” both seemed… well, awkward.

I’m sure that this verse from the Scottish Psalter:

When they me saw they from me fled.
Ev’n so I am forgot,
As men are out of mind when dead:
I’m like a broken pot.

would have some of my younger choristers in fits of giggles. The Old Version is only slightly better:

As men once dead are out of mind,
so am I now forgot;

As little use of me they find
as of a broken pot.

But still, on the whole, I thought it would be better to stick with the “shattered vessel” language, even if the rhyming is a bit strained:

Forsook by all am I,
as dead and out of mind;
And like a shattered vessel lie,
whose parts can ne’er be joined.

In any case, here is the response:

For a more complete picture there is a PDF file here.

Psalm 130 to Cheshire

This past Sunday — Passion Sunday — was not an All-Age Service, or anything else requiring exceptional liturgy, and so it was back to metrical psalms with a congregational response.

I was pleased with this setting of Psalm 130. The tune I chose is one that we’ll be using on Palm Sunday and which is not terribly well known in the congregation, so sneaking it in as the psalm is one way of getting people used to it. I’m also very fond of the harmony. That said, the dotted rhythms mean it does need to be taken quite slowly in order that the words don’t get swallowed up.

I did stumble at first over the beginning of the last stanza:

“And plenteous redemption
is ever found with him.”

At first glance this doesn’t seem to have the right number of syllables. There should be eight in the first line and six in the second, right? But I know from singing other music that pronunciation has changed; the word “redemption”, which most people now pronounce with three syllables, would have had four. The choir were happier to sing it with four syllables than change the rhythm of the music to make it fit, so that’s what we did.

Here’s the response, taken as usual from the last line of the melody:

And if you want the whole thing, you can download a .pdf file. I played the verse first, then the choir sang the response once through, then the congregation sang it. This seems to work well.

Psalm 121: Anglican Chant with a congregational response

Continuing with the inclusion of psalms to our liturgy during Lent, on 20th March at St Andrew’s we sang Psalm 121. This is a favourite of mine and of many others, and I wanted to use Anglican Chant this time. There are various chants that can be used; the one by H. Walford Davies, with solos in the first and third quarters, is certainly well-known. But it wasn’t really appropriate for our very small choir, which doesn’t have enough voices to cover four parts. Instead I used a chant by Phocion Henley, who I know better as the composer of many West Gallery tunes.

We still needed a congregational response. I made this one by using the last half of the chant, keeping the rhythm simple:

It worked a treat.

This past Sunday we had a said psalm, which I must say I didn’t find nearly as rewarding. Next week is Mothering Sunday and we are having an All Age Chaos Service. Happily the psalm appointed for that day is Psalm 34, which has actually made it into our hymnal thinly disguised as a hymn: “Through all the changing scenes of life” is from Tate and Brady’s “New Version” of the psalms, published in 1696. We will sing it to the Common Meter tune “Wiltshire”, attributed to George Smart (1776-1867) and originally set to Psalm 48. This is relatively familiar to the congregation and choir alike so everyone will sing, rather than my fussing about with responses.

That leaves me with Psalm 130 (Passion Sunday), Psalm 31 vv 9-16 (Palm Sunday), and Psalm 22 (Maundy Thursday, during the stripping of the altar) to sort out; we won’t have sung psalmody on Good Friday or during our Easter Vigil. I’m planning on metrical psalms with congregational responses for the first two, but that won’t work for Maundy Thursday; for that, I think it will be a unison chanted psalm with alternate lines by a soloist and the rest of the choir.

I’ve enjoyed working with the psalms so far and trying different ways of fitting in the congregational responses, and I will miss them.

With cheerfulness rejoice

Psalm 51 on Wednesday night went well, I thought: the congregation sang their response and the choir led well. There were even some positive comments after the service!

For this morning’s service I wanted to keep things simple — fitting in the extra music for Ash Wednesday had already squished our rehearsal time a bit. So I decided we’d do the same thing, using a metrical version of Psalm 32 and an appropriate congregational response.
I had originally thought to go with the Isaac Watts paraphrase of the psalm but in the end settled on Sternhold and Hopkins; I don’t entirely remember why. That runs to eleven stanzas in Common Metre (CM) and a response after every verse would have added 50% to the length, so I looked at the version in the Common Worship: Daily Prayer Psalter to see when to add the responses. I settled on Caithness as a tune because I know the choir know reasonably well, but not so well that singing different words than they’re used to will be disconcerting.
Here’s the response we used:
As with Psalm 51 on Wednesday, the notes in the response are the same as the last line that the choir sings, which makes it easier for the congregation to pick things up. Again, I thought it went well. It’s very hard to hear from the organ but I’m told the congregation did sing the response. I was glad to have chosen something simple, as in the end the usual weeknight rehearsal was cancelled due to illness and we only had the pre-service rehearsal this morning to work on this psalm. It was certainly very different from the setting of Psalm 32 that London Gallery Quire sang this evening at Manor Road United Reformed Church, but still appropriately cheerful, I think. More on the Manor Road service in another post!
Next week is Psalm 121, one of my favourites. The plan is to use the non-metrical Common Worship text this time, set to a lovely little chant by Phocion Henley, with, (guess what?) a congregational response based on the last line. We started learning it this morning, and the tune seems fairly solid but fitting the words to it will be more difficult. I’ll be sure to update with further details!

Starts with P and that rhymes with T

Lent approaches fast and, at St Andrew’s at least, this will be a time of penitence, prayer, purple vestments and psalmody.

The latter is my concern. During Advent we tried adapting the Common Worship psalter to a simple plainchant melody from Palmer’s “Manual of Plainsong”. It worked well for the choir, who could rehearse, but the congregation struggled to join in. Even when using the same plainsong melody for the whole season, fitting unfamiliar lines of varying length to the same tune was either too difficult or too unclear.
I feel strongly about congregational participation in church music in general, and psalms in particular. While there is an argument for reverent, contemplative musical worship where a choir sings the psalms on behalf of the rest of the congregation who participate silently, I think that kind of vicarious liturgy is more suited to Choral Evensong. The psalms are a dialogue, a means by which human feelings can be honestly explored and offered to God, and I feel there is something to be gained from very direct participation in sung psalmody.
So this Lent I’m trying another approach: responsorial psalms. The term “responsorial” is a bit of a mis-nomer, I feel, but refers to psalmody in which the main body of the psalm is sung or said by cantor, choir or reader, with a refrain repeated by all present.
A lot of the chanted responsorial psalmody available today is in a particular style of simplified, interpreted Gregorian chant. Murray’s settings of the Grail psalter are by far the best known of this type of recitative chant; and for the Grail translation I understand they work very well. Copyright issues abound, however, and I can’t quite be having with a paperwork fight. New Psalms for Common Worship, compiled by Colin Mawby, also uses this style of responsorial psalmody — and also has copyright issues, as the publisher, Kevin Mayhew, do not take part in the Christian Copyright Licensing Initiative, so I cannot photocopy the chants for the choir to learn or the response for the congregation to read. In addition, the text of the Common Worship psalter, like the beloved Coverdale psalms used in the Book of Common Prayer, was not really designed to make chanting easier, and hard-to-sing accents on the last syllable of the line are common. That might eventually be okay if we had sung or chanted psalmody every weekday or even once a week on Sundays but as things stand, it only has a place during the penitential seasons, unless I get particularly insistent. This is unfamiliar stuff to the majority of the congregation and so it needs to be very easy to pick up. Besides that, I don’t want to limit myself to just one translation or one musical style. There is a rich heritage of English psalmody upon which to draw, and I don’t mean just Anglican Chant, lovely though it can be.
I’m taking a slightly different approach. Several months ago, I attended a RSCM-led psalmody workshop in Salisbury where the director suggested combining Anglican Chant with the refrains of the responsorial psalmody. Writing a refrain certainly isn’t beyond my abilities and having the congregation sing the same refrain, after hearing the choir sing it once, makes it more likely that they’ll be able to join in.
If we can do this with Anglican Chant, why not do it with other styles of psalmody?
For Ash Wednesday, Dr Francis Roads (who also conducts the London Gallery Quire) kindly furnished me with copy in Sibelius of a metrical setting of the first half of Psalm 51. The music is by Playford, set for SAB, and the text is from Sternhold and Hopkins; you can download the manuscript from the International Music Score Library Project. But while the metrical text and regular tune make this easier to learn than chanted psalmody, it’s still a bit much to ask of a congregation with no warning and no rehearsal — or so they would have me believe every time I introduce a hymn someone hasn’t heard for a while! Since I already had a shiny Sibelius file I transposed the entire lot down a tone, and modified the alto part to be less awkward. I also made this response:
to be sung in unison. That line of music, plus all the words, with the refrain in bold type, will be printed in the pew slips for the congregation to follow. As the notes are the same as the last line of the verses, I’m hoping it will be reasonably easy to follow, and that Playford is not turning in his grave.
Of course, the trouble now is that the vicar would quite like the words to all the rest of the psalms for Lent as soon as possible, so I need to find suitable settings and write responses for all of them in a bit of a hurry! I’d like to include a mix of plainchant and metrical psalmody, sticking for the most part to better-known tunes for the latter, but I might go for a chanting tune or two.
So of course this afternoon I’ve been blogging about it, instead of getting on with the actual setting. Next up is Psalm 32.


In the final year of my degree I decided I needed to do more singing, and one thing led to another…

I am delighted that we’ll be singing and playing Evensong at a church not too far from where I live! It makes carrying the serpent much easier. Playing from the gallery is a treat, too; many galleries have had so many bits of pipe organ added that we can’t get into them.


A special service of Evensong with the

London Gallery Quire

Hear the leading exponents of West Gallery music, the psalmody heard in parish churches and non-conformist chapels during the Georgian period, sung from the West Gallery of one of the finest, most unspoilt Georgian churches in England – St Mary’s Wanstead.

Sunday 6th February 2011 at 6.30pm


Overton Drive, Wanstead E11 2LW

All welcome

A multiplicity of translations

Over at the Liturgy blog, Rev Bosco Peters has a series of posts on the new Revised Grail Psalter. In the first post he links to the full text of the psalter, and laments the multiplicity of translations, though he does say “An English psalter for worship needs to balance accuracy on the one hand with rhythm for proclaiming, chanting, and singing on the other.” I don’t have the book he recommends as an accurate translation — though it is inexpensive and I might well look into it. If I am curious about translations I go first to the Psalter Kata Bob.

In a second blog post, Rev Bosco goes on to lament the use of antiphons coming from the Revised Grail Psalter (which is translated directly from the Hebrew) together with others coming from the Latin Mass. In addition to not fulfilling Liturgiam authenticam, which is defined as a translation of the Latin Mass, this leads to a certain lack of liturgical coherence. I am sure that this is regrettable, but as at St Andrew’s we use the Common Worship texts it doesn’t affect me directly.

In a third blog post, Psalm 2 is appraised with regard to translation and sources; it appears to be something of a mash-up between the original Grail translations, the NRSV, and new translations for the Revised Grail Psalter. Interesting; I don’t know how much of this sort of mashing-up is present in other psalm translations. But I thought I might present some other translations of Psalm 2:

There is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer version, of course:
Quare fremuerunt gentes?

WHY do the heathen so furiously rage together : and why do the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together : against the Lord, and against his Anointed:

3 Let us break their bonds asunder : and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn : the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath : and vex them in his sore displeasure:

6 Yet have I set my King : upon my holy hill of Sion.

7 I will preach the law : whereof the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

8 Desire of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, : and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron : and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings : be learned, ye that are judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord in fear : and rejoice unto him with reverence.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and so ye perish from the right way, if his wrath be kindled, (yea but a little) blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

There is the “Old Version”, a metrical setting of the text by Sternhold and Hopkins:

1 Why did the Gentiles tumults raise?
What rage was in their brain?
Why do the people still contrive
a thing that is but vain?

2 The kings and rulers of the earth
conspire and are all bent
Against the Lord, and Christ his Son,
whom he among us sent.

3 Shall we be bound to them? Say they,
let all their bonds be broke;
And of their doctrine and their law
let us reject the yoke.

4 But he that in the heav’n doth dwell,
their doings will deride;
And make them all as mocking-stocks
throughout the world do wide.

5 For in his wrath he shall reprove
their pride and scornful way,
And in his fury trouble them,
and unto them shall say,

6 I have anointed him my King
upon my holy hill;
I will therefore, Lord, preach thy law
according to thy will:

7 The law whereof the Lord himself
hath thus said unto me,
Thou art my only Son, this day
have I begotten thee.

8 The people I will give to thee,
as heirs at thy request
The ends and coasts of all the earth
by thee shall be possessed.

9 Thou shalt them bruise e’en like to those
that under foot are trod,
And as a potter’s vessel break
them with an iron rod.

10 Now ye, O kings and rulers all,
be wise therefore and learned,
By who the matters of the world
are judged and discerned.

11 See that ye serve the Lord above
in trembling and in fear;
See that with rev’rence ye rejoice
when ye to him draw near:

12 See that ye do embrace and kiss
his Son without delay;
Lest in his wrath ye suddenly
Perish from the right way.

13 If once his wrath (but little) shall
be kindled in his breast,
Then only they that trust in him
shall happy be and blest.

There is the “New Version”, that is, the metrical setting by Tate and Brady:

1 With restless and ungovern’d rage
why do the heathen storm?
Why in such rash attempts engage,
as they can ne’er perform?

2 The great in counsel and in might
their various forces bring;
Against the Lord they all unite,
and his anointed king.

3 “Must we submit to their commands?”
presumptuously they say;
“No, let us break their slavish bands,
and cast their chains away.”

4 But God, who sits enthroned on high,
and sees how they combine,
Does their conspiring strength defy,
and mocks their vain design.

5 Thick clouds of wrath divine shall break
on his rebellious foes;
And thus will he in thunder speak
to all that dare oppose:

6 “Though madly you dispute my will,
the king that I ordain,
“Whose throne is fixed on Zion’s hill,
shall there securely reign.”

7 Attend, O earth, whilst I declare
God’s uncontrolled decree;
“Thou art my Son, this day my heir
have I begotten thee.

8 “Ask and receive thy full demands;
thine shall the heathen be;
“The utmost limits of the lands
shall be possessed by thee.

9 “Thy threat’ning scepter thou shalt shake,
and crush them every where;
“As massy bars of iron break
the potter’s brittle ware.”

10 Learn then, ye princes, and give ear,
ye judges of the earth;
11 Worship the Lord with holy fear;
rejoice with awful mirth.

12 Appease the Son with due respect,
your timely homage pay;
Lest he revenge the bold neglect,
incensed by your delay.

13 If but in part his anger rise,
who can endure the flame?
Then blest are they whose hope relies
on his most holy name.

More recently there is the Common Worship version:

1 Why are the nations in tumult, •
and why do the peoples devise a vain plot?

2 The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together, •
against the Lord and against his anointed:

3 ‘Let us break their bonds asunder •
and cast away their cords from us.’

4 He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn; •
the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak to them in his wrath •
and terrify them in his fury:

6 ‘Yet have I set my king •
upon my holy hill of Zion.’

7 I will proclaim the decree of the Lord; •
he said to me: ‘You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.

8 ‘Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance •
and the ends of the earth for your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron •
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’

10 Now therefore be wise, O kings; •
be prudent, you judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and with trembling kiss his feet, •
lest he be angry and you perish from the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.

12 Happy are all they •
who take refuge in him.

And then, of course, there is the Latin:

The thing that I find fascinating is that all of these are words I would happily use, in different contexts. I would probably use the metrical settings in congregational worship where people are less familiar with the psalms or with singing chant; the Common Meter texts are easy to sing as a group and the vocabulary is relatively simple, though the translation is a little, er, “free” at times to the point of being quite unsuitable for interfaith gatherings. I would use the Common Worship text for said psalmody as it’s nearer than the other examples to the way people actually speak today; I would use Common Worship or the BCP version for Anglican chant, and either Common Worship or the Latin for plainsong, depending on the type of service. Anglican chant can work in very small and intimate services, as I’ve discovered by attending Evensong at Christchurch Wanstead, but where people want sung, non-metrical psalmody to be performed by a choir and there isn’t already a certain familiarity with Anglican Chant, plainsong seems to work better. I don’t think I’d like to be limited to just one psalter, and I am grateful for the “multiplicity of translations” which others lament. I’m grateful, too, that in the Church of England we are free to use any translation of scripture that is not banned, subject to the approval of the incumbent as per Canon B5 — and as yet, no translation has been banned.

Alas, there’ll be none of it for me tomorrow morning as we have a gradual hymn instead of a psalm. But that’s a post for another day…