(From Jubilee bulletin of 1/30/11)
Today we will begin using the new Book of Praise in our worship services. I thought I would begin a series of short articles introducing the new book, about how it differs from the 1984, the current, version.
Before we consider the changes, we should note the similarities, for in every way it is still the songbook with which we are familiar. It contains the hundred and fifty Psalms, a collection of hymns, the creeds, confessions, forms, prayers and church order. However, there are some changes and improvements that would be good to note.
The first change you will notice is the size. The dimensions have increased a bit from 4.5” x 6.75” to 5.5” x 8.5”. These new dimensions give the book a more pleasing appearance and the text of the songs is a little larger. The very observant will feel that the paper is of a slightly finer quality than the previous edition.
If you look at Psalm 1, you will see written at the top of the page “Book 1” and “Psalms 1-41.” The Book of Psalms is divided into five books, and this is now made obvious in the songbook. See also above Psalms 42, 73, 90 and 107.
Above the text of many Psalms in the Bible, you will see a “superscription” which may mention the human author of the Psalm, or the circumstances surrounding its writing, or some musical notations. Where these are present in the Bible they have been included in the songbook. See, e.g., Psalm 3. Understanding something of the Psalm’s original context will be fruitful for singing it today.
If the song is a longer one so that you must turn the page, the music is, again, provided. See, e.g., Psalm 9. When the Psalm number is above the first stanza, it is centred but when it is at the top of a page containing other stanzas, the indication is off centre to the right or left margin. When you see the reference is off centre, you will intuitively know it is not stanza 1 and your eye will drop down to see at which stanza you are. At least, that is the theory, and a human factors engineer will be able say if the committee got it right.