Singing God’s Psalms by Fred R. Anderson

by
28 April 2017

Richard Greatrex puts a new metrical Psalter through its paces

Singing God’s Psalms: Metrical psalms and reflections for each Sunday in the church year
Fred R. Anderson
Eerdmans £19.99
(978-0-8028-7321-7)
Church Times Bookshop £18

 

WHILE a seminarian, Fred Ander­son was counselled by a wise tutor to return to the Psalms and put them at the heart of meditation and study when ministry burnout threat­ened or prayer dried up. In time, Ander­son followed this sage advice, but, being a musician, he turned to creating interpretations of each text in a metrical form to be sung to well-known hymn tunes.

The result is this collection of 104 versified psalms, each accompanied by suggestions for suitable hymn tunes and a short meditation on the text. Included is one metrical psalm for each Sunday in the three-year cycle of the Revised Common Lec­tionary.

The finessing of the RCL to create Common Worship’s lectionary means that a handful of psalms are missing for Anglican usage; but otherwise this could become a helpful resource for congregations used to singing traditional hymns.

The discipline of holding to metre and rhyme some­times stifles the liquid beauty of the psalms, especi­ally when compared with transla­tions such as Coverdale’s or Com­mon Worship, and occasion­ally it feels as if Anderson attempts to pin down meanings too firmly. Some­times the dilemmas encoun­tered in attempting to interpret such richly textured poetry result in two altern­ative versions, as for Psalm 91, each markedly different in their choice of imagery while still con­veying a positive theme of assurance.

Giving these metrical versions a trial in our parish, we found that they certainly rose from the page when sung; but suggested hymn tunes for our selection were largely unfamiliar, possibly because they had been initially chosen for North American congregations. But it took negligible research to find better-known melodies, allowing us to furnish these ancient texts with extra versatility. Similarly, with a little imagination and flexibility, many worship leaders will find here in­­spira­tion to revitalise usage of the Psalms in contemporary worship.

 

The Revd Richard Greatrex is Associate Priest of Barrow Gurney, in North Somerset.

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