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October 5, Finding Kindness. October 4, Pushing Past Obstacles. October 3, True Gratitude. October 2, A Long Way from Home. October 1, Strength in Christ. September 30, Joy Always. He started with his own life. And who wrote this? Many different men are possibilities — David — Hezekiah — Jeremiah — Nehemiah — Malachi; or Daniel because there is no mention of the temple. But there is one who stands out above the others in his life and work, and that is Ezra. And after 40 years of reading this Psalm, that is who I think was used by God to pen these words.
The result? How did Ezra do this on a consistent basis? By meditation. Remember Meditation is a soul that thirsts and drinks of God in His Word; that longs for the waters of life and drinks them of God in His Word; that drinks from an ever present oasis in the arid, sun baked, lifeless deserts of life through finding and communing with God in His Word. Here is his pathway:. Finally, mediation free Ezra to just ask the Lord for each area he needs to live fruitfully for the Lord.
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Remember Ezra faced a worldly congregation, soaked in all the worldly ways of Babylon and Persia. Great fun! There are also some amazing professionally recorded collections of Metric Psalms out there, including this one called Psalms In Harmony which was performed by one person singing all the parts in very tight harmony with perfect blend, as one would expect when the same voice does all the parts. Of the several ways to sing Psalms covered in this article, the sound of metrical Psalms is probably the most familiar to our ears.
This work is considered to be a careful translation that is faithful to the original Hebrew text. Some parts are even a closer reflection of the original Hebrew than the prose Psalms found in the English Bible because subtle nuances of the Hebrew text were brought out where extra syllables were needed. Whether or not the Hebrew is strong in this psalter, the English is clearly a bit strained. Imagine the incredible amount of work that had to go into this to fit the words to meter and also make them rhyme! Still, it communicates the meaning just fine, and you may come to love it. The slightly unnatural English text of Psalm 23 and the tune that always goes with it in this psalter is well known and beloved by many:.
Some churches sing metrical Psalms exclusively no other hymns which I personally think is a great idea. Why sing hymns written by people when you can sing the powerful Word of God -- especially since you have so many great tunes to choose from, and are free to create more tunes in any musical style?
They also sell Bibles with these same metrical Psalms in the back in addition to the regular Psalms in the Bible, of course. You can also order it through Amazon. Here is another edition of the same metrical psalter plus a few other metrical psalters at Amazon:. Some of these have the older form of English which I love, being a fan of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, but the majority of books listed here are in modern English. The other way to sing Psalms is to keep the words in their original form, and create tunes to fit the words.
Of course, this could result in different tunes with complex and unpredictable melodies. Fortunately there is another option: chanting. Chanting is sort of a combination of speaking and singing. This is the key to singing text without rearranging it; most of the words are spoken in a monotone on the same note, and a small part of the text is sung to specific notes and rhythms, giving the chant its musical quality. One very old form of chanting is called plainsong, which has been around since the early centuries of the Christian Church, if not earlier.
It is possible that parts of plainsong chants we have today came from the synagogue chants which were familiar to Jesus. Plainsong is also called Plainchant. Gregorian Chant is a form of plainsong. Plainsong is especially suited to individual prayer since there are no harmonies or instrumental accompaniment, and the range of notes is relatively narrow and within the range of the average person.
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You can determine how high or low the chant will be sung, so no chant is ever outside your singing range. The music for plainsong chant also called plainchant comes from nine different basic tunes called Psalm Tones , and there are variations within these nine Psalm tones. In a plainsong psalter, the text is marked pointed to give the reader clues as to how to fit the words to the music. Each psalter has its own system of pointing, but they all follow the same basic principles. An asterisk marks the division between the first and second section, and corresponds to the bar in the center of the music.
In some psalters a colon is used instead of an asterisk for this. Slashes further divide these sections into two parts. The first part corresponds to the long bar in the music, and all the words before the slash are sung on one note.
The second part after the slash is very short, and corresponds to the notes in the music; each syllable gets its own note. Plainsong was originally written in a form of music notation known as neums, which are the ancestors of modern music notation. Some plainsong psalters still use neums while others use modern notation. There are a few other elements of plainsong which aren't covered here, but if you have grasped this much, then you'll have no problem with the rest. I have created a small card, basically 3X5 inches with 5 of the simplest, most versatile Psalm tones, so I can tuck it into my Bibles for quick reference to use with any of the Psalms.
If you would like to try it, I also made a PDF with a sheet of 4 identical cards since there was extra room on the sheet and some extra instructions. If you use a plainsong psalter regularly, you will soon have a collection of Psalm chants in your head at your disposal so that even when you open the Psalms in your Bible, you will be able to sing them naturally because the chants will pop into your head.
The Plainsong Psalter of mentioned above is nearly impossible to find, but Lancelot Andrewes Press came to the rescue by producing Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter , which is mainly based on the Plainsong Psalter of but expanded to include Canticles and all the elements you would need to chant Morning and Evening Prayer Matins and Evensong of the classic Book of Common Prayer. It uses the same Psalm tones from the Plainsong Psalter, even assigning the same tones to the same Psalms, and adds several more tones to the longer Psalms.
While the Plainsong Psalter was written in modern musical notation, this psalter is done in the original square neum notation which is really much easier to sight read because it is less cluttered. This is an excellent work, and fills a great need. You can get a copy from Lancelot Andrewes Press or Amazon.
Augustine Orthodox Church in Denver. Also, recordings of The Compline Service at St. Mark's Cathedral usually include chanting of the Psalms in beautiful Plainsong by a men's choir. The layout of Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter has each page with the music notation at the top, followed by the text of the Psalms, which means you sometimes have to figure out which syllable falls on which notes, and in my case it's often a judgement call when there is more than one possibility.
For those who need to have everything "spelled out" with a corresponding musical note above each syllable, there's the classic Manual of Plain Song by Rev. Thomas Helmore, published in This is also done in square neum notation. You can find a facsimile e-book in Google Books for free. Just get a Google account, and do a search from within Google Books. In that that edition, you use one Psalm tone for all the Psalms in each day's Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, which keeps it all simple, if not a little monotonous.
An entirely new edition was published in by H. Briggs and W. Frere under the superintendence of John Stainer.
So I downloaded the PDF version which preserves the images of each page. It's a beautiful e-book that lets you feel like you are using a very old physical book with yellowed pages. But the file is so big, it makes my tablet very sluggish to the point that I can't use it. Fortunately a print version is also available from Amazon in both paperback and hardcover. I bought the paperback version photo on the right. This is apparently a "print on demand" book because the printing date on the last page was the same day I ordered the book. How do they do that? It's a fairly big book at 7.
I prefer small books for my prayer time, but sometimes we have little choice but to go with "big book devotions" because of limited options. But it's very easy to use if you set it on your lap, and takes all the guesswork out of chanting in Plainsong so you can think a little more about the words my constant battle. As you can see below, it almost has to be a large book for readability, and the printing is very crisp and clear.
The Manual of Plainsong is available in yet one more form which is very nice, and must have taken a lot of work to create:. David Stone of Cambridge, U. These are not scanned images of the original book, but newly created pages based on the original book, so they are clean and crisp and enlarge and print very well.
Of course, these are much lighter files than the scanned facsimile editions on the web, and they also look much better in your tablet. If you don't want to find a plainsong psalter, here is a very simple and versatile chant that will serve as a springboard for improvisation. The first note is written as C, but that is only to show how the other notes relate to it.
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The long square bar is for singing the majority of the words on one note in a natural reading style. Then you change the note of the final syllable or syllables as indicated in the music: go up a note at the end of the first line and drop down two notes at the end of the second line. Different words break at different places. For example in Psalm 93 below the word "majesty" would require an accent on the first syllable but not the final two syllables. If such a word occurs at the end of the first line, go up a note on "ma" and drop back down to the original note for "jesty" I put this "dropping back down" in parentheses in the music score since sometimes it is needed and sometimes it is not.
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On the second line, you have a choice, depending on what sounds most natural to your ears. You could drop down a note in the middle of "girded" as I have done, or somewhere else. Most Psalms are divided into groupings of two lines each. The chant is therefore divided into two sections. If there are three lines grouped together instead of two, just repeat the notes of second measure for the final line.
This is a departure from traditional Plainsong which would have you modify the tune for the first line instead of the last line, but with this improvised method, there is no need to plan ahead or backtrack when you suddenly discover you still have an extra line. Note that the words "robed" and "moved" can also be split into two syllables if you are using the traditional way of pronounciation as in the word "wicked.
There is no universal agreement on which words should be divided and where. Feel free to improvise and let the words divide naturally according to your own judgement.
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If you are singing by yourself to God, then there is no need to conform to established formulas. An even simpler form of chant is called recto tono which is Latin for straight tone. You simply recite the entire Psalm on one note! I once heard a guy behind me in church chanting a Psalm this way and thought he was simply being rebellious or displaying some kind of misguided piety.
Now I realize he was chanting in a very old and acceptable form.