Chanting the Psalms

The Psalms have been chanted by cantors, choirs, and congregations for centuries. Indeed, of all the modes of singing the Psalms, chanting comes closest to the ancient practice. Recently the chanting of psalms has been fused with jazz, modern, and popular genres. Sometimes chant is cast in conventional notation (e.g., the Orthodox setting of the Lord’s Prayer on p. 1034). In other instances the text may be set with musical notation using flexible chant melodies either for unison singing (e.g., 3A), or for singing in harmony (e.g., 46E). In either case, the singing should always be fluid, taking its cue from the pace of natural speech.

In this book the chanted texts are most often provided with red marks that serve as musical markers. This presentation is commonly referred to as ‘pointed psalmody.’ Though perhaps puzzling for the uninitiated, the formula is intuitive. The practice is better ‘caught’ than taught. The explanation of the pointing (in the next paragraph) can be both distracting and intimidating for congregations. Most assemblies do best when simply encouraged to chant with the cantor or an initiated group of singers.

To keep reading, turn to pages vii-viii of the book!