The impetus behind the 2016 extension to the AHRC Singing the Reformation project of 2009-12, was a realisation that although some recordings of early Reformed Scottish Psalm-singing had been made by Dunedin Consort, Cappella Nova and the University of Edinburgh Renaissance Singers, there were none that attempted to capture the experience of a singing congregation.
Thanks to the advocacy and supervision of Professor Jane Dawson, funding was received from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, with further support from the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland. In partnership with the Church Service Society and St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington, Singing the Reformation 2016 was born.
What were we singing?
We collaborated with Jamie Reid Baxter and Mick Swithinbank to create new performing editions for thirteen Psalms based upon the Wode Part Books and the Scottish Psalters of 1564, 1596, 1599, and 1635. A phonetic Scots text underlay was included based upon the Psalters of 1596 and 1599. This underlay is included for every verse that we selected to use in each Psalm. Our choice of material was influenced by awareness of which Psalms had: not yet been recorded; were attested in primary sources as being sung on particular occasions; were specified for use by the rubrics in liturgical texts; and were set to especially striking tunes. Although recordings existed of Psalms 100, 107 and 124, we felt it important to capture them with our unique forces. We were particularly keen to amplify Dr Tim Duguid’s points about the distinctiveness of the Scottish Psalters. His Metrical Psalmody in Print and Practice: English ‘Singing Psalms’ and Scottish ‘Psalm Buiks,’ c.1547-1640 (Ashgate Press, 2014) emphasised the fact that despite their shared roots in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter, the Scottish and English Psalters developed in distinctive ways. Amongst other things, a number of tunes of French and German origin included in Scotland were not featured in the sister metrical psalters of England. Doxologies were included for each Psalm from those contained within the Charteris 1596 Psalter.
The Psalm selection
Due to time constraints during the recording weekend, Psalms 67 and 119 were not recorded.
Where there are challenges in understanding Scots words, the Dictionary of the Scots Language website may be of help: www.dsl.ac.uk
Psalm 1 all verses
Psalm 27 all verses
Psalm 42 verses 1-5, 9-11
Psalm 67 verses 1,2,3,4,6
Psalm 76 all verses
Psalm 100 all verses
Psalm 103 all verses
Psalm 107 verses 1-16
Psalm 113 all verses
This represents a body of settings which are called Psalms in Reports. They frame the Kirk part in the context of a simple form of polyphonic writing which is designed to be used in conjunction with a skilled group of sang schule singers rendering the treble, alto and bass parts. They could stand as items only delivered by the sang schule as a type of anthem, or be sung with the congregation taking the kirk part. Although these settings are more elaborate than the basic settings in the Psalters, they retain the emphasis on clarity of word setting whilst adding another aesthetic dimension to Reformed worship. This arrangement of Psalm 113 is one of eight settings in reports found in the 1635 Psalter, edited by Edward Millar, master of music of the Scottish Chapel Royal. Although it is unattributed, the music has been identified as the work of Claude Goudimel and can be found in his Les 150 Psaumes, set to the text of Psalm 68 in the Huguenot Psalter.
Psalm 118 verses 1,2,3,4,5,8,9,10,15,16,22,23,28,29
Psalm 119 verses 1-16
Psalm 124 all verses
Psalm 133 all verses
Who was involved in the recording?
Our recording project gathered around 60 “congregation” singers from the general public and a small sang schule group which comprised 8 SATB singers and 12 treble choristers from the junior chorister group at St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington. In order to show the full potential of these settings, we allocated verses for different voice breakdowns. Although this may not represent historical practice, the allocations were made in response to the mood and detail of the text and with a desire to provide variety in longer Psalms.
We were privileged to have the involvement of Susan Hamilton as coach and Director for the recordings. Her hard work in collaboration with Jamie Reid Baxter (language coach) and Iain McLarty (Precentor) meant that life was breathed into this neglected material. The mixed ability group of volunteer “congregation” singers rose to the occasion with their energy and commitment. Douglas Galbraith provided extra “producer” ears and Gordon Macgregor captured the recording. Without them, and the Minister, Kirk Session and members of St Mary’s, this project would not have been possible. We are extremely grateful to them all.
It was extremely moving to hear settings that have not been sung since the mid-seventeenth century come to life in this way – the notes on the page are transformed into the ephemeral sound of devotional music. We hope that you will take the chance to listen to these recordings, freely download and copy the sheet music editions and sing them on any occasion. They are in the public domain, so there are no copyright issues.
Setting the Psalms in their worship context
As a conclusion to the recording weekend, we decided to create a worship experience containing the key elements of Sunday morning worship condensed into the space of one hour. In the circumstances, an exact recreation was not possible, but we felt that it was important to place some of the Psalms in their liturgical context and to open up the experience to a wider public. Around 180 people gathered in the nave of St Mary’s, Haddington to catch a glimpse of the prayer, praise and preaching experience of the Reformed Kirk. As significant as the content was the layout of the building. Rather than facing towards the east end, the congregation gathered around the pulpit, half-way down the nave in a manner typical of the converted medieval kirks after 1560. The intimacy and corporate feeling generated by this layout was a crucial part of our glimpse into the dynamics of Reformed worship. The roles of Reader and Precentor were taken by Martin Ritchie and Iain McLarty, while Jamie Reid Baxter took the role of Minister and preached a condensed version of a late sixteenth century sermon by Robert Rollock, first Principal of the University of Edinburgh. A recording of the event is also available on the Singing the Reformation 2016 page, along with an order of service.
Martin Ritchie, June 2016