Reflection Masthead
Issue 167 - Deep Calls to Deep - January 2018

On Sunday, January 21, we attended a brilliant, moving performance

"Psalms in Song" was a full concert of Psalm texts set to music
by some of the greatest composers of the ages.
The music was beautiful, and the experience led us
to reflect on the power of the Psalms throughout the centuries.
Age Calling to Age
"Deep is calling to deep." Those words from Psalm 42 keep coming to mind as I reflect on the concert of Psalms.
Early in the concert, the singers' voices called to one another in the gorgeous polyphony of Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus," a setting of Psalm 42. This was followed by Herbert Howells' setting of the same psalm from 400 years later. Written in a single day, January 8, 1941, in London, shortly after the city had been bombed for 57 consecutive days, Howells' music gave a haunting new voice to the psalmist's cry, "Where is now your God?"
Ralph Vaughn Williams' "Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge" (20 th century), engages not
Book of Psalms
only the ancient text of Psalm 90, but also Isaac Watts' setting of the psalm from the 17
th century. Deep is calling to deep: new voices answering old voices.
The anguish and the glory of human existence are given voice in the psalms, and composers down through the ages have adopted, and sometimes adapted, the words of the psalms to speak to their own age. Two of the pieces performed were composed within the past year.
"The Lord is faithful from age to age," proclaims Psalm 100. Even some of the psalmists had their doubts about that, of course, as the many psalms of lament demonstrate. Still, from age to age, these ancient poems have spoken deeply to the doubts and fears, the joys and hopes of the human heart. From age to age, composers have added their voices to the ongoing chorus.
Thanks be to God for the words and the music! Thanks be to God for the voices calling from age to age, the voices calling from, and to, the depths of the human heart.
                                                                - Bill

Touching Hearts
       On the way home from the San Antonio Chamber Choir concert, I asked Bill, "Why is so much of the early choral music church music?" Of course, I knew the answer, but the question was more of a lament that the rotund First Baptist Church sanctuary wasn't filled to the brim. The Chamber Choir brought many of us who were there within reach of a little bit of heaven.
       Henry Wadsworth Longfellow might have known about Sunday's performance when he wrote:
God sent his Singers upon earth . . .
That they might touch the hearts of [all],
And bring them back to heaven again.
       These Singers, by their harmonic essence, were grand players in God's plan to bring back all who were touched by the prayer and by the musical artistry. They surely lifted many of us from the secular to the sacred, touching our hearts: "Sublime . . . exquisite . . . keep the ear interested and delighted . . . music transverses through rhythmic and cascading textures to highlight the words and radiantly express their meaning." (quotes from the program)
       Besides beautiful harmonic essence, the choir amplified the gestalt of the Psalms as a genuine communion with God. To quote Saint Ambrose (4th century):
A Psalm is
a cry of happiness,
the echo of gladness.
It soothes the temper,
lightens the burden of sorrow.
It is
a source of security by night,
a lesson of wisdom by day.
It is
a shield then we are afraid,
a celebration of holiness,
a vision of serenity,
a promise of peace and harmony.
Day begins to the music of a psalm,
Day closes to the echo of a psalm.
                             --by Jan

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Copyright (c) 2018 Soul Windows Ministries


Bill Howden and Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries