Previous article in this series: April 1, 2018, p. 301.
I understand that some of my recent articles may be “information overload.” I want to give information, but do not want to overload. To help understand this article, it will probably be best that you have your Psalter open.
In my last article I introduced two kinds of lyrical changes that the interdenominational Psalter revision committee is proposing for Psalms 1-40 (Psalter numbers 1-112): changes to existing lyrics and changes that involve adding new lyrics to existing songs.
I ended that article by saying, “Next time, I intend to introduce the three new selections being proposed for Psalms 1-40.” In fact, not three, but five completely new selections are being proposed for Psalms 1-40. I am sorry for my mistake; my goal is to provide you with facts, and mistakes do not serve that goal.
Five proposed new songs
As of its last meeting (February 2018), the committee is prepared to recommend that our churches adopt five new songs in the section from Psalms 1-40. The five new songs would be numbered 26A, 28B, 32A, 33B, and 38A. By now I trust my readers understand that this means they will be versifications of Psalms 26, 28, 32, 33, and 38. Each of these songs will be complete versifications of those Psalms; one of the goals of the committee is always to have one complete versification of a Psalm, and two when possible. The letter after the Psalm number (26A, 28B) not only indicates that this will be the first or second selection of a particular Psalm, but also whether the committee judges it to be the most complete versification of that Psalm in our Psalter. The “A” selections are more complete than the “B” selections.
I have space to reproduce only three of these five proposed Psalms. Let me comment first about the two that I will not reproduce here.
Our Psalter has two selections from Psalm 26: Psalters 69 and 70, each of which treat the entire Psalm. Psalm 26 has 12 verses. Psalter 69 has seven stanzas, while Psalter 70 has five. This indicates that Psalter 70 treats the Psalm less completely than does Psalter 69. But even Psalter 69 is not as complete a versification as we would desire. The committee recommends omitting Psalter 70 (the least complete versification of Psalm 26), designating Psalter 69 as 26B, and adding as 26A a song from the Reformed Presbyterian Church (North America) Psalter entitled “Lord, Vindicate Me.” Its tune, “Kingsfold,” is not overly familiar to us, but neither will it be difficult to learn.
Our three selections from Psalm 33 (Psalters 85-87) treat that Psalm section by section; together, they are a complete versification of the Psalm. The committee recommends combining these three to the tune of Psalter 86, and designating it 33A. Selection 33B will be a song from the United Reformed Church of North America (URC)/ Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) Psalter-Hymnal entitled “With Joy Let Us Sing to the Lord.” Its tune, “Ash Grove,” is often paired with the thanksgiving hymn “Let All Things Now Living a Song of Thanksgiving.”
The other three songs are printed in this article. Our Psalter currently has only one versification of Psalm 28 (Psalter 75, which will become 28A), so 28B is a second complete rendition of the Psalm. The tune, “Tallis’ Canon,” is familiar; it is often paired with the hymn “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night.”
Because Psalters 83 and 84 treat Psalm 32 section by section, the committee recommends adding another selection from Psalm 32 (32A) which will be a complete versification of the Psalm. Its tune is entitled “Resignation.” Several tunes have that name; our tune to Psalter 121 does. But the tune to 32A will be a different tune, one which is often sung to the words “My Shepherd will supply my need; Jehovah is His name.” Psalters 83 and 84 will then become 32B and 32C.
Psalters 102 and 103 together give a full treatment of Psalm 38. The committee recommends retaining both as 38B and 38C, but adding as 38A a selection from the URCNA/OPC Psalter-Hymnal. Most will find the tune “Llef” unfamiliar, but it is an easy tune to play and learn. Its minor key makes it suitable to bring out the plaintiveness of Psalm 38.
Other new songs?
Perhaps the committee will recommend additional selections for Psalms 1-40. For one thing, the committee has not yet finally decided which Genevans (the songs found in our “Chorale Section”) to recommend for inclusion, but the Genevans of Psalms 6 and 19 are possibilities. These would be new for the PRC, but not for the Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC) or Free Reformed Churches (FRC) (they are Psalter numbers 437 and 438 in the version of the Psalters that the HRC and FRC use). Nor would they be new to Reformed believers: they are called “Genevans” because the tunes were used in Calvin’s Geneva, and our Dutch forefathers put Dutch lyrics to those tunes.
The committee is also still looking for replacement tunes for some Psalter numbers. Psalter 18 (a rarely sung tune) is one example. The desire is to retain the lyrics, but put them to a different tune. However, if a good replacement tune is not found, the committee might propose an entirely new versification. Might. As of today, not certain.