Monday, November 28, 2005

Rejoice & Sing

Hymns and psalms have, from time out of mind, been a source of strength and solace to God's people. They model for us the attitudes that please Him, both in adversity and in triumph. They take our minds off of the gravitational well of Self. They teach us to pray.

It is a great poverty that our generation knows only the Top-Ten Christian radio hits of the moment. I have rarely found even a whole day's worth of those to be as nourishing as a single psalm.

Thanksgiving and Advent are a wonderful time to recover some sense of what we have lost, by revisiting an old American custom: the Psalm-Sing. We discovered this custom when we lived in the Washington, DC area and had friends in a church which sings nothing but psalms in worship. Whatever you think of that practice, we found that it makes amazing musicians of ordinary folk. They could sightread chorales in four-part harmony without accompaniment!

But a psalm-sing is simple to host.

In keeping with a theme of recovering our spiritual heritage, invite everyone to bring to bring potluck dishes that have been in their families for a generation or more - and bring the recipes to swap as well.
Have on hand a goodly supply of hymnals, psalters (psalms set to music), and/or psalter-hymnals. Our absolute favorite is Cantus Christi. It begins with a section which offers most of the psalms set to the most beautiful music from across the centuries, continues with an incredibly sumptuous selection of hymns both ancient and modern, and finishes up with service music (music that allows a congregation to sing the elements of worship: gathering, confession, prayer, thanksgiving, etc.) to die for. Follow this link to hear some of this heavenly music.
Invite some instrumentalists. While folks who are used to singing the psalms can sightread just about anything with no more support than a pitchpipe, most of the rest of us have never developed this ability. Don't despair! Just invite a pianist.

Start in the mid- to late-afternoon. At our psalm-sing, my husband kicks things off by piping in the hymnals. Sing a while. Feast. And sing some more. Our voices usually give out around 8 or 9pm. But everyone goes home joyfully filled, body and soul.

1 comment:

Eric said...

It's nice to see that I am not the only one out there who enjoys some of the "not-so-contemporary" music. I love the idea of the psalm-sing and am going to try to put one together!


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