One of the challenges in the Roman Catholic Church is trying to find ways to encourage and enable the congregation to sing. Unless you use a seasonal psalm refrain, this generally means the congregation has a new melody to learn every week with the responsorial psalm. Sure, you can build up a repertoire over time, but there’s not a lot of repetition in the three-year lectionary cycle. One of the easiest ways to learn a piece is through repetition, so I decided to use hymn tunes as melodies for the psalms. This reinforces the singing of the hymns and gives something familiar to the people for the psalm. I created numerous of these settings while at the Cathedral in Albany and now am in the process of revising them (and perhaps finishing the set) to go with the new Revised Grail Psalms. We used the first of these new revised hymn tune psalms at Mass this weekend for Advent 2.
Psalm 72 – Justice Shall Flourish
Refrain based on EIN FESTE BURG with Gelineau-style tone by Wm. Glenn Osborne
The Audubon Park Psalter presently consists of four volumes: one for each of the liturgical years (A, B, and C) and a fourth for Solemnities, Feasts and other holidays. It uses the new Revised Grail Psalm translation for the verses with the ICEL refrains. Each volume is 60-70 pages and contain over 50 psalm settings. A shorter fifth volume containing palms for weddings and funerals is in preparation.
After several years of leading very eclectic music programs, I felt the need for a psalter that would raise the standard of music available and that could be adapted to many different settings. The Audubon Park Psalter is designed to be flexible instrumentally and vocally. The verses are written most often in a one pulse per measure chant style (like Gelineau) so that a consistent tempo may be kept between the refrain and the verses. Having chant style verses makes the singer’s task of learning multiple verses easier than a through-composed setting, but by keeping a pulse, it is possible to have much more interesting melodies than a common 3-5 note chant settings would offer.
Because the verses are most often written in traditional four-part harmony, a choir could sing the text or accompany the cantor by singing on a neutral syllable. A string quartet or woodwind ensemble could also read the vocal lines for additional accompaniment colors. Because of the consistent rhythm, a skilled ensemble of piano, guitar and drums, could take many of these settings into different jazz or contemporary styles. Written with a harmonic language that is interesting, yet accessible, these settings are designed to be singable, playable and achievable for most any parish music program. Check out the list of recordings to hear some live performances from the psalter.
TIFF and JPG files of the refrains are available for download. You may search by occasion or first line:
While I was at the University of Notre Dame pursuing my Master’s degree, I served as organist at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Inspired by the stories of Johann Sebastian Bach writing a cantata every week, I took it as my own challenge to write a psalm setting every week while I was there. The choir and cantors there became my compositional laboratory, and I turned out probably 100 psalm settings during my two years there.
I dropped this practice when I went to France to study, but resumed it again when I became music director at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. While I would have liked to reuse some of my settings from Indiana, unfortunately, most of the scores I did were minimal vocal only scores without notation for any keyboard part. Sometimes, I could figure out what I had intended to play at the keyboard, but other times, the music was effectively lost in time. In order to encourage congregational singing, many of my psalm settings written in Albany used phrases from hymn tunes to make the refrains readily accessible to the people.
Once I moved to Orlando, I had no need to compose weekly psalm settings. My catalog had also grown to include at least once setting for almost all of the three-year lectionary cycle, so when I was given the opportunity to use my own settings, I generally had something to pull out of the file cabinet ready to go. With the release of the Revised Grail Psalter and my understanding that this would be the new preferred translation for the Roman Catholic Church, I have decided once again to turn out weekly psalm settings using the new translation. No hymn tunes this time – only original music. (This collection has been published as the Audubon Park Psalter.)
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to consider using my psalm settings at your local church.