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.

One thought on “Metrical Psalms for Advent

  1. This is only a first draft, but…== Advent I Psalm 80:1-8,18-20 ==And hear us call, O Lord on high, enthroned in shining light;and rescue us from every snare,and save us by your might.How long will you be angry, Lord,and turn away your ears?Our neighbours shake their heads in scorn;we eat the bread of tears.You held us like a precious vinethat out of Egypt came;Now bring that vine to life again,to call upon your name.And touch and heal our blinded eyes,and let us see your face;and as you shine upon our sightrestore us by your grace.== Advent II Psalm 85:1-2,8-13 ==O Saviour, open up our earsto hear the words you say,for surely you will give your peaceto faithful folk who pray.Salvation nears, and glory nears,and praise in all the lands,for righteousness and peace shall kissand love and trust hold hands.The Lord will give us what is good,and love and crops shall grow,and righteousness will make a pathwherever he may go.== Advent III Psalm 126 ==When God restored our lands againunending was our mirth;our tongues were filled with shouts of joy,the talk of all the earth.Restore our fortunes, Lord, again.Though now the sower grieves,the harvesters shall shout for joy,returning with their sheaves.== Advent IV Psalm 89.1-4,19-26 ==My lips proclaim your faithfulness,my praises ever rise.Your love stands firm for evermore,as steadfast as the skies.You told us of your promises:to David you had swornto build his throne for evermoreto children yet unborn.You raised your servant David upto be your chosen king,and gave him wits and strength enoughfor all that life would bring.And all the while his heart will knowmy faithfulness and love,and call upon his Father God,his saving rock above.

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