Archive for the ‘St Stephens Psalter’ category

A Note on our psalms

October 26, 2012

A group of men from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Orinda, California, gathered on a Friday evening in March for dinner at the start of a weekend retreat. The conversation and the food were plentiful—but an element of concern appeared every now and then: “Our topic is what? Psalms? I don’t know…it sounds kinda dry.” And the level of concern was elevated when they found out they would be expected to write their own psalm (and then talk about it!).

As we got into the topic on Saturday, and started reading and talking about the psalms, our time together took on a spiritual dimension that we all treasured. We saw that the psalms, written thousands of years ago, still spoke to our hearts. When we gathered at the end of our session, after taking some time for reflection and writing our own psalm, it became clear just how vital the psalms were. Just as the psalmists had shared what was on their hearts—their joy, anger, anguish, fear, confidence—so did we.

If that had been the end of our experience: a time for men to gather, to reflect, and to talk from the heart, that would have been sufficient. But wait: there’s more.

I invited participants to share their psalms with me, so that they could be set to music. One of the other participants was also a composer, so he and I collaborated. This itself has been a rewarding challenge, as he composes songs relying strongly on his ears, while I bring years of classical training and a strong reliance on music notation to the table. Just as there was diversity in the original psalms, so too did our project have a diversity of expression in both text and music.

What started with a group of men getting in touch with an important piece of their religious heritage has grown as their words have been transformed (hopefully not for the worse!) and shared with the choir, with our congregation, and soon with a concert audience and—who knows?—maybe youtube!

While the original psalms are in no danger from our efforts, sometimes you just need to sing a new psalm.

Advertisements

Concert Time is Near

October 24, 2012

Please join the choir of St. Stephen’s, Orinda, in a concert of contemporary psalms written by the men of St. Stephen’s: “O God of all Creation;” “Lord, my boat has no rudder;” “My Restless Being;” “You assure my place at the table;” and ten others. Composers Peter Margen and Robert Train Adams have set these moving and inspiring texts to music for baritone and soprano soloists, mixed choir, and piano or acoustic guitar. The music varies in style from English cathedral to jazz and blues. Each psalm will be read in its original version, followed by its musical setting.

When: Sunday, October 28, 5 p.m.

Where: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, http://www.ststephensorinda.org, 66 St. Stephen’s Drive, Orinda CA

Cost: Free

For the text of the psalms and program notes from the composers, please follow the links on the sidebar.

Listen to a New Psalm

October 3, 2012

As I’d promised in a couple of earlier posts, program notes are now available for each psalm. We’re still adding to the notes, but there’s some background information on each piece. In addition, audio files–really midi files–of the score of each movement have also been added to the program notes. They’re not as good as live music–or recordings of people performing–but they’ll give some idea of each piece. Of course, that means you should come to the concert, or get the recording which (ever hopeful) just might come out of the concert…

In the meantime, the sidebar to the right of this note lists all of the movements. The page titled St. Stephen’s Psalter gives a complete list of contents. From the page for each psalm you can click on the link at the bottom to get to the program note.

Alternatively, Psalter mp3s lists all 14 movements and their mp3 of the score. These will make the most sense for choir members with score in hand who are preparing for our concert.

Next up: some thoughts on writing music, and a conversation between Peter Margen and Robert Train Adams.

Sing a New Psalm

September 29, 2012

We’re exactly one month out from our concert: October 28 at 5 pm. We’ve rehearsed all the movements with chorus (one of the fourteen psalms is set for solo voice and guitar; all the rest involve chorus to some degree). My original plan was to hire outside soloists, but there’s such a richness of voices in the choir, that we probably won’t do that. Prospective soloists are looking at their music. All solo assignments will be finalized very soon.
The texts are wonderful, and seem to be as meaningful to the singers as they were to the composers. If you’re in the SF Bay Area, consider joining us for the concert at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Orinda.

Coming soon: Program notes on each movement.

St. Stephen’s Psalter

September 26, 2012

A group of men from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Orinda, California, gathered on a Friday evening for dinner at the start of a weekend retreat. The conversation and the food were plentiful—but an element of concern appeared every now and then: “Our topic is what? Psalms? I don’t know…it sounds kinda dry.” And the level of concern was elevated when they found out they would be expected to write their own psalm (and then talk about it!).

As we got into the topic on Saturday, and started reading and talking about the psalms, our time together took on a spiritual dimension that we all treasured. We saw that the psalms, written thousands of years ago, still spoke to our hearts. When we gathered back together, after taking a half hour for reflection and writing, it became clear just how vital the psalms still are. Just as the psalmists had shared what was on their hearts with God, so did we.

We are happy to share the meditations of our hearts with you.

To the psalms

Coming soon: The musical settings of these psalms.