(To be published in a future issue of Clarion)
Singing the Psalms
The church catholic has been singing the Psalms for about 3,000 years, ever since King David and others, inspired by the Holy Spirit, began composing them. The Psalms are closely identified with the worship of the Canadian Reformed Churches since we sing from the Book of Praise, which contains a complete collection of all 150 Psalms. We also sing hymns, and it is proper to do so. Some of our sister churches subscribe to exclusive Psalmody. We do not and never have. As Dr. Arjan de Visser wrote in this magazine, “A biblical understanding of the covenant will support and encourage the singing of hymns” (“They are Singing New Songs” (57:18, pp 458-460).
And yet, we are primarily a Psalm-singing people. In the preface to the Book of Praise, John Calvin is quoted who, in turn, quoted Augustine, making the point that there is nothing better to sing than the Psalms, which have been inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Although the Psalms have been sung for millennia, there seems to be, of late, a renaissance of appreciation for the Psalms. In the rest of this article I will introduce three groups of artists who are promoting the singing of Psalms. What follows are not reviews of specific albums, but simply some information and words of appreciation for the work being accomplished.
Jamie Soles, of Grande Prairie, Alberta, is known in our circles. He has produced about fifteen albums, several especially for children, which are very popular with my grandchildren … and their grandparents. Jamie accompanies his songs with an acoustic guitar and is often joined by his wife Valerie and combinations of their eight children. When he is singing words of scripture, he stays close to the text, preferring the ESV.
Inside the album cover of Pure Words, songs on the first sixteen Psalms, he writes some notable words:
It seems to me that the Church should be singing the Psalms, her ancient songbook. In a number of places in the New Testament the Psalms are spoken of or quoted as though they had been uttered by the Messiah. If this is the case, and I believe it is, and if the believer’s task in life is to grow more into the image of Jesus, then mastering the Psalms would be a wise way to learn the mind of Christ. Do you want to be like Jesus? Well, here is a treasure trove of the way that Jesus thinks and expresses himself in song. Learn to sing them well. Jesus is pleased when his people know how he thinks.
Jamie says it well here, and, as a Psalm-singing people, we can appreciate the point he makes and take it to heart.
It is difficult to classify exactly his style, but let it suffice to say that his songs are biblical, enjoyable, memorable and singable. Jamie captures well the mood of the particular Psalm, whether it is sad or joyful, instructive or a benediction. I recommend this artist and his music to the reader. CDs can be ordered from www.solmusic.ca.
Sons of Korah
Sons of Korah is an Australian based band devoted to giving a fresh voice to the biblical psalms. They use a unique acoustic, multi-ethnic sound and have given the Book of Psalms a dynamic and emotive new musical expression. In their songs, in which the words are often taken directly from scripture, they bring out well whether the Psalm is one of lamentation, jubilant praise, battle cry, benediction, an exclamation of awe and wonder, or a reflection of tranquility and wisdom.
The reader will recognize that the name of the band comes from the group of Levitical musicians to whom at least thirteen of the Psalms are attributed. Sons of Korah is made up of seven people while Matthew Jacoby and Rod Gear co-write the music. Many string, acoustic, and other, musical instruments are used in the performance of the songs.
Sons of Korah has produced five albums that range in mood from the deeply emotive and reflective to the wildly exuberant, as the Book of Psalms itself does. I also recommend this band and their albums to the reader of Clarion. Readers can go to the Sons of Korah webpage,
www.sonsofkorah.com, to listen to samples of many songs before deciding whether to purchase.
The Psalm Project
This project will be of interest to Canadian Reformed people as it has taken the tunes of the Genevan Psalter, 1562, and put them to contemporary settings. This Dutch group has produced both a Dutch and an Engish CD. The Psalm Project is a band of six professional musicians under the leadership of Eelco Vos who had a vision to dress historical treasures in 21st century sounds. String, wind, and percussion instruments are used to accompany the songs.
Not everyone will appreciate this contemporary interpretation of Genevan tunes, but, having an eclectic taste in music, I do, and I recommend the albums to the reader. CDs can be ordered from their webpage, www.thepsalmproject.com where one can also preview the songs.
The songs of Jamie Soles, the Sons of Korah, and the Psalm Project can all be previewed and purchased also through iTunes.*
Listen, sing, enjoy, and worship!
*(Please note that at iTunes, there is another group called the Psalm Project and one called the Psalms Project. These look interesting, but I am not familiar with them.)