In the late 1960s, when these Psalm settings were written, ecumenicism was very much in vogue, and so they were designed for synagogue or church use, and for either concert or worship venues. For the church version, marked by a cross in the printed score, the texts are distributed in such a way as to compensate for the words of the Doxology (“Glory be...”), which can either conclude each movement if it is presented by itself, or can come at the end of the last Psalm if all three movements are performed as a unit. The synagogue version, however, heard on this recording, is marked by a Star of David in the score. The Psalms are numbered according to the Hebrew system.
The chamber group for the first and third movements consists of brass sextet (with bass trombone), two flutes, organ, and piano. The middle movement is scored for only organ and flutes. These flutes not only offer commentary on the music, they also comment on the text, so that when the choir sings about birds, the flutes employ flutter-tongue technique in imitation of birds’ chirping or other communicative sounds; and at the mention of “springs,” the flutes imitate rippling waters. The three tuned drums (high, middle, and low) that appear in the first and third settings are intended to convey a sense of excitement, dance, and joy. This is particularly transparent in the final shouts of “amen,” where there is a smidgen of aleatoric choice. The choir may select any one of the five pitches of the pentatonic scale (formed by the black keys on the piano), and the pianist is instructed to slap the black keys with his palm and then with his forearm.
Sung in English
Come, let us sing unto the Lord,
Let us make a joyful noise
Unto the rock of our salvation!
Come, let us greet Him with thanksgiving,
Let us shout for joy with psalms to Him.
For the Lord is a great God,
And a great King above all kings.
In His hand are the depths of the earth,
And the height of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, and He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land,
And He formed it.
Come, let us bow down and bend the knee;
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
For He is our God:
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the flock of His hand.
Today if you would only listen to His voice.
How lovely are Your dwelling places,
Lord God of Hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning for the courts of the Lord:
My heart and my flesh sing out for joy,
Sing out to God, the living God.
The sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself
Where she may lay her young by Your altars,
You are Lord of Hosts,
My King and my God.
They are happy who dwell in Your house;
Forever singing Your praise.
They are happy whose strength is in You,
In whose hearts are the roads to Zion.
As they go through the bitter valley,
They make it a place of springs;
The autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with ever growing strength,
They will see the God of gods, in Zion.
They walk with ever growing strength!
Lord God of Hosts,
Hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn Your eyes, O God, our shield;
Look upon the face of Your anointed.
One day within Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I had rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
He gives us His favor,
He gives us His glory.
No good thing will He withhold from them that walk,
That walk uprightly.
Lord of Hosts,
Happy the man who trusts in You, in You.
PSALM 81: 2–6
Sing joyfully to God our strength;
Acclaim the God of Jacob.
Take up a melody and sound the timbrel,
The pleasant harp, and sound the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For it is a statute in Israel,
An ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
When he came forth from the land of Egypt.
Sing aloud unto God, to God our strength,
Unto the God of Jacob.
Make a joyful noise unto God!
Performers: Harry Huff, Organ; Metropolitan Brass Ensemble; New York Motet Choir; Stephen Sturk, Conductor
Publisher: Theophilous Music, Inc.
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