Calvin's Plan for Recovering Psalmody in Our Time

Wes describes the discovery of a very interesting Genevan practice that we might well adopt.

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  1. Sounds very much like what is written in the Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    • I’ve been using the Comprehensive Psalter to sing through the 1650 “Scottish” Psalter in a year. The program is Mon-Sat : one song a day (6 total), then on Sunday repeat the first three for morning worship, and the last three for evening.

      However, I’m taking it a little slower than a year.
      It’s a great psalter because 1) inexpensive & high quality, 2) historical, 3) downloadable MIDI tunes

      See here:

  2. We have just finished singing our way through the book of Psalms. I think we are the first Scottish Free Church to have done that for some time. There are many good things about it – one the main benefits being that it forces God’s people to see that the God they worship is concerned with all of life – from Psalm 1 through Psalm 23 through Psalm 109 through Psalm 150. A great idea, but must be done well and with good explanations of portions to be sung.

  3. I’ve been trying to get into psalm singing, but without it being practiced in the church it seems difficult to find resources. I have several questions:

    i. What is the preferred psalter and why?

    ii. Do any of them contain the whole psalm, or are they always just a few verses of a psalm per song?

    iii. What CDs or websites are there to guide the musically challenged in the proper tunes? Specifically, are there any that contain singing for an entire psalter?

    Please help.

    • Dear louis,
      Did you see the “10 reasons Why we Sing the Psalms in Worship?” articles by Brian Cochran that Dr. Clark linked to several weeks ago on the Heidelblog? The URL to the index is:

      He recommends, and so do I because I’m a member of the RPCNA, the new Book of Psalms for Worship. The Psalter is in modern English and the translation was done specifically for the Psalter. As for learning the tunes has midi files for the new Psalter, the 1973 Psalter, and the Trinity Psalter.

      The selections are either the whole Psalm sung to one tune, the whole Psalm sung to two or more tunes, or part of a Psalm to multiple tunes. It is very doable, however, to just stick to one tune and sing multiple selections to that tune.

    • Hi Louis,

      The Book of Psalms for Singing and the Book of Psalms for Worship (the more recent edition) of the RPCNA is quite good. They have CDs. The text of the psalms is very carefully done. The tunes are usually singable. The Book of Praise is pretty well done but the tunes aren’t always as singable perhaps. We sang the setting of Ps 68 from the B o P at my installation/inauguration last week. There are other good psalters out there. The old 1912 psalter is still available but I think some the settings are paraphrastic. The Trinity psalter is pretty good but it doesn’t have the music. Why they did that, I don’t know but there it is. The Scottish Psalter (split leaf) 1929 is pretty good but my “go to” psalter is the Book of Psalms for Singing/Worship.

  4. It is hard to improve upon Calvin. Having grown up singing portions of Psalms set to “English” tunes (the typical Presbyterian arrangement), I am increasingly convinced that Genevan (or Genevan-style) tunes are preferable for singing Psalms. Indeed, such tunes are excellent for congregational singing. They work particularly well (once they have become familiar) for singing without accompaniment (!).

    The best available resource (in English) is the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, which is contained in the Canadian Reformed Churches’ “Book of Praise”. You should be able to obtain a copy from Premier Printing, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada). Be forewarned: the melodies are not harmonized; nor are they written in standard time (4/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc.). But the payoff is tremendous — singing the Psalms to Genevan tunes will NEVER leave you imagining a 19th-century revival meeting . . . guaranteed.

    • Okay, that looked awesome, until I saw the translation was based on the NIV. All of a sudden it doesn’t sound so “Anglo-Genevan.”

      • If you are avoiding the NIV, then you should be looking for a 1984 edition (or earlier), which is, I believe, the latest print edition. The NIV-friendly Book of Praise is not yet in print, as it has not been approved for use in the churches.

        • If anyone still wants the old Book of Praise with its more archaic language (who still sings in joyful lays these days?), see here:

          Words and music are both there too. The newest edition of the Book of Praise (still with the older version of the Psalms) has the NIV used in the liturgical forms and confessions.

          As to the actual text of the revised psalms, this is what the website says:

          “In the process of revising the psalms, very careful attention was paid not only to the most-commonly used Bible translation in the Canadian Reformed Churches, the NIV, but also to many old and contemporary translations of the psalms in English and other languages. As well, many existing English, French, Dutch, etc., psalters were consulted. Since three brothers on the Committee are able to read Hebrew, the text of the proposed revisions was carefully compared with the original text. ”

          We use the revised psalms in our worship services and I’m quite pleased with them (though I am not impressed with the NIV).

  5. Dr. Clark: The English Reformation provided for singing the entire psalter each month. The Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer divides the Psalms in M0rning, Evening Prayer over 30 days. Calvin is definitely right!

  6. Louis,

    I have as a recommendation from Dr. Clark

    Book of Psalms for Singing, Crown and Convenant Publications

    And the corresponding Tune library, in two CD’s, The Book of Psalms for singing, Tune Library.

    Found on their website….

    Good stuff.


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