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Metrical take on the Psalms

08 August 2014

Ronald Corp considers 30 hymns by a well-known wordsmith


HYMNS based on psalms include some of the most loved in the repertory. "The Lord's my shepherd" and "Through all the changing scenes of life" are just two examples. A Mirror to the Soul (RSCM, £6.95 (CT Bookshop £6.25); 978-0-85402-234-2) continues this tradition, and consists of 30 psalm-based hymns with words by that most successful of hymn-writers Timothy Dudley-Smith. Two of his hymns, "Tell out my soul" and "Lord, for the years" enjoy something like cult status. The texts in this volume are equally accomplished.

The volume has been put to-gether with the musician William Llewellyn, and the texts are set to existing hymn melodies, some of which are very familiar, and to new tunes, including one by John Rutter. Of the well-known tunes, Ellacombe (which we associate with the words "The day of resurrection") is pressed into service for a hymn based on Psalm 99, and Wolvercote ("O Jesus, I have promised) for a text based on Psalm 72.

Congregational psalm-singing is not as common these days as it used to be, and is becoming a lost art. This volume is, therefore, an ideal way of keeping the psalm textsalive. The psalms, of course, offer a wealth of material for all human conditions. Each hymn is usefully indexed with a note declaring the underlying theme of the text on which it is based. For example, Psalm 100 ("O be joyful in the Lord") comes to us in Dudley-Smith's words as "To God, our God, the nations' Lord", and the themes are stated as "testimony; thankfulness and praise".

This volume will be a boonnot just for those who want tosing psalm texts, but for those who want to widen their hymn repertory.

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