The Book of Psalms or Psalter is essentially the hymnal of ancient Israel. It was compiled from older collections of lyrics and used to accompany acts of worship in the Second Temple. Although actual authorship is uncertain, many of the Psalms are attributed to King David and thus date back to at least 1000 BC. Containing 150 psalms, the Book of Psalms is one of the longest in the bible and contains some of the most beautiful and beloved verses in all of Christianity.
While the original music is long lost, it is certain that the Psalms were intended to be sung. There are many references to this in the Psalms themselves as well as elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments. In the early Christian church the Psalms were probably sung in similar fashion to the lost ancient Jewish tradition. However, by the fourth century, plainchant was developing and used to sing the Psalms. With the Reformation came renewed interest in the Psalter as theologians/composers wrote metrical versions of the psalms set to hymn tunes, making them easier to sing, many of which are still part of our hymnody today. Similarly, English reformers devised Anglican Chant which allowed the psalms to still be sung with speech-like rhythm but over a simple harmonic structure. This form of psalm singing is part of our current Hymnal 1982.
During this season of Lent, our music will focus on the Psalms. Each Sunday, the Offertory Anthem will be a choral setting of the appointed Psalm for the day. In addition, we, as a congregation, will attempt to sing the appointed Psalm using Anglican Chant in place of our usual antiphonal reading. Hopefully, with a little bit of practice, we will all be able to experience the full meaning of these beautiful words as they were meant to be expressed as well as continuing an ancient tradition.