Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Attention: Theology / Church History / Music Nerds
Check out this site. It contains recordings of all 150 Psalms from the Genevan Psalter. If you're not familiar with the Genevan Psalter, allow me to explain. It's a collection of paraphrases of the Psalms, compiled by John Calvin and first published in 1543.
At the time Calvin only allowed the members of his congregation to sing the Psalms during corporate worship. And, for reasons that I won't get into here, did not allow the psalms to be accompanied by any instruments or vocal harmonies. In other words, the whole congregation sang the same melody line unaccompanied - something that's completely unheard of in modern church music.
The website listed above has mp3 recordings of each of the 150 Psalms, all re-arranged in English available for download. But the original melodies from the Genevan Psalter are used, which is kind of neat. Except melodies from the 1500's are pretty weird. They're extremely hard to follow. It seems almost impossible to predict where the melody is going. Also, the recordings on this site are done a capella, which Calvin surely would have appreciated.
Each Psalm begins with a single voice singing the melody for the first verse, and then other voices join in and harmonize the following verses, which Calvin would probably disapprove of. You can also download pdf files of the sheet music for each Psalm. I can't imagine singing these with a congregation, but it would be fun to try.
The recordings sound great. I'm going to download as many as I can. They're kind of neat when you get to listening to them, and they're very powerful. Even though the language is a tad weird, you can't beat God's word set to music.