Psalms 96-102


These words are very familiar, but I couldn’t place it. After a while I think all the lyrics start to sound the same, and when I googled the first line ‘sing unto the lord a new song’, I got a number of hits for different music containing that line. This phrase seems to be a bible cliché – it is the start of psalms 96 and 98, and also appears in Isaiah 42:10. And composers love it. A YouTube search produced dozens of different choral arrangements of Psalm 96, so I just chose one to share. This is a contemporary arrangement sung by a high school choir. Such is the life of a musician – sacred music is a staple.

Psalm 97#97

More of the same schlock – god is powerful, he makes the weather, those who worship idols will be disgraced, he protects the lives of his people, yada yada yada.


This is just more of the same song of praise type stuff. But I found it on YouTube from the traditional Anglican Psalter, the way we used to sing it in church. It is known as the Cantate Domino, and is part of the Evensong service. The tune is in very simple 4 part harmony, and each phrase has to be fitted to the same few notes, which usually entails singing multiple words on each note. Also at the end note the Doxology, which is always sung at the end of every psalm. “Glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the holy ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, amen.” This is translated from the original Latin version which would have been sung in most Catholic churches, and you will still hear it in Latin in the settings of masses and requiems of the big classical composers (Bach, Mozart, and the like). I’ve sung the darn thing so many times in those works that I even know the Latin by memory. “Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.”


More of the same but less familiar. Words don’t ring any bells this time.


Another well-known one. No wonder – the ones that make god sound good and merciful are always used more often than the ones that don’t. This one is short, but it has spawned dozens, if not hundreds, of melodies, hymns, and artsy choral works. I will share two – the first is a version that my daughter sang in a choir once – she can’t remember which choir, but as soon as she saw the words she remembered it, and sure enough, we found it on YouTube. This is a splashy arrangement intended for youth choirs. The second is the traditional hymn tune that I remember from church – here sung for the Queen’s coronation anniversary service (royalty is big on these old hymn standards).


Back to David again. Boy, he sure talks a good talk – please god, I’ll be good, really, honest! Sounds to me like what a kid says when he’s been in trouble once too often. Read about all the things he promises – ha!


This one is anonymous. It has familiar phrases in it, like “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.”, and “incline thine ear”. It’s sad – the heartfelt anguish of someone who is troubled, pouring out their grief to an imaginary friend who will never answer, begging for help that will never arrive. It is also the inspiration for that old tearjerker hymn sung at funerals, Abide With Me.

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