Learning and Loving the Trinity Psalter
by Terry L. Johnson
Among the many ambitions that the creators of the Trinity Psalter have for their work is that the tunes recommended become known and beloved. While substitutions are possible, it is hoped that the users of the Trinity Psalter will persevere in using the tune designated for each Psalm. If this is done, beloved associations of tunes and words will develop among its users. But, for this to happen, a wise strategy will need to be employed. Too much that is new too soon will prove frustrating. On the other hand, avoid the unfamiliar tunes altogether and you’ll either stay away from half the Psalms, or bore yourselves by using the same tunes over and over again. We advise beginning with those settings which make use of commonly known tunes (at least relatively commonly known). The song leader should survey the index on pages 126-128 to find those tunes with which he/she is most familiar. The following is a partial list for beginners:
|1 – Arlington||50 – St. Thomas||103 – Beecher|
|3 – New Britain||53 – Boylston||104 – Lyons|
|4 – Penitence||54 – Ebenezer||107 – Fountain|
|5 – Aberystwyth||57 – Germany||108 – Festal Song|
|9 – Joanna||65 – Webb||109 – Stuttgart|
|11 – Terra Beata||67 – Missionary Hymn||110 – All Saints New|
|13 – Passion Chorale||71 – St. Christopher||112 – Morecombe|
|14 – Munich||72 – Truro||113 – Monkland or Hendon|
|15 – Lowry||73 – Melita||114 – Quebec|
|18 – Sweet Hour||74 – Rest||115 – Dix|
|20 – Retreat||78 – Ellacombe||119 – Stockton|
|25 – Trentham||79 – St. Leonard||121 – Dundee|
|29 – Kremser||85 – St. George’s Windsor||122 – Cwm Rhondda|
|30 – Angel’s Story||89 – Ode to joy||126 – Olivette|
|32 – Vox Dilecti||90 – St. Catherine||128 – Nettleton|
|35 – Hamburg||91 – Hyfrydol||130 – Martyrdom|
|39 – Eventide||92 – Darwalls 148th||133 – Azmon|
|40 – I Need Thee||94 – Austrian Hymn||138 – Hursley|
|42&43 – St. Agnes||96 – Coronation||139 – Maryton|
|45 – Diademata||97 – St. Anne||141 – Canonbury|
|46 – Materna||99 – Leoni||143 – St. Elizabeth|
|46 – Ein Feste Burg||101 – Aurelia||145 – Duke Street|
|49 – Mercy||102 – Park Street||147 – Lancashire|
In addition to these, many congregations that use the Trinity Hymnal will be familiar with the following Psalm-tune combinations:
|16 – Leominster||66 – Miles Lane||100 – Old Hundredth||135 – Kirkpatrick|
|23 – Crimond||84 – Llangloffan||117 – Laast Uns Erfreuen||142 – Rockingham Old|
|46 – Materna||86 – Llef||119 – Duane Street||146 – Ripley|
|51 – Redhead||95 – Irish||124 – Old 124th||149 – Laudate Dominum|
Let me pause at this point to say that many of these will quickly become favorites. Psalms 1, 5, 23, 42, 46, 51, 91, 100, 103, 117, and 146 are particularly outstanding and will take their place almost immediately alongside among the most beloved hymns. In a number of other cases, perseverance will repay huge dividends. Leominster with Psalm 16, Miles Lane with Psalm 66, Llangloffan with Psalm 84, Llef with Psalm 86, Duane Street with Psalm 119, and Rockingham Old with Psalm 142 may each be initially known to only a few, but after a few rehearsals, will quickly become popular. This partial familiar tune list makes up over half of the Psalter.
What then are we to do with the tunes that admittedly will be strange to most ears? We hope that worship leaders will persevere because of the quality of the music and the huge dividends that will be repaid over time. Again, we provide a partial list:
UNFAMILIAR TUNES OF SUPERIOR QUALITY:
|6 – Trewen||38 – Merton||69 – Beautitudo|
|7 – Toulon||41 – Salzburg||75 – Sheffield/Medfield|
|19 – Columbia||44 – Dominus Regis Me||81 – Brother James’Air|
|22 – Horsley||48 – Wareham||87 – Richmond|
|28 – Tallis Canon||56 – Winchester New||118 – St. Asaph|
|31 – St. Theodolph||60 – Bangor||134 – All Saints Old|
|37 – Forest Green||63 – St. Columba||150 – Creation|
A number of outstanding unfamiliar tunes are fairly unique to the Book of Psalms for Singing (1973). They include:
|2 – Hintze||68 – Weymouth||105 – Noel|
|8 – Amsterdam||76 – Neander||106 – Leveque|
|24 – Greyfriars||80 – Bryn Calfaria||116 – Pilgrims|
|34 – Yorkshire||83 – Salvum Fac||129 – Old 110th|
|47 – Petersham||98 – Desert||136 – Constance|
We believe that a number of these tunes-word match-ups are truly exceptional. Psalms 2, 8, 19, 24, 37, 47, 63, 68, 98, 116, 118, and 136 are among the most excellent of excellent.
Now let me say a few additional things about the unfamiliar tunes. These more difficult (or unknown) tunes can be given several classifications:
- A number of Genevan hymn tunes are used. Psalm7 (Toulon) and Psalm 124 (Old 124th) are similar. Psalm 129 (Old 1l0th) is probably unknown, but an outstanding minor key tune. Psalm 93 (St. Michael) is simple and known to many.
- A number of Welsh hymn tunes are used. Psalm 6 (Trewen), Psalm 80(Bryn Calfaria), Psalm 84 (Llangloffan), Psalm 86 (Llef), plus the familiar tunes of Psalm 5 ,91, 54, and 122. Often in a minor key, the Welsh tunes have a haunting beauty well suited to the many Psalms of complaint.
- A number of English hymn tunes are used. Psalm 37 (Forest Green), Psalm 38 (Merton), Psalm 60 (Bangor), Psalm 81 (Brother James’ Air), Psalm 142 (Rockingham Old), Psalm 22 (Horsley). Each of these tunes is beautiful.
- Several old Scottish tunes are used. Psalm 121 (Dundee), Psalm 131 (Dunfermline), Psalm 64 (Culross), Psalm 62 (St. Flavian) may be traced to the older Scottish Psalters (1615 and 1635). Psalm 59 (Crediton), Psalm 17 Evan), Psalm 127 (Glasgow), Psalm 95 (Irish), Psalm 41 (Salzburg), Psalm 111 (St. Magnus), and Psalm 119 III (St. Peter), Psalm75 (Sheffield/Medfield) and Psalm 137 (Naomi) are all associated with the Scottish Psalm singing tradition. A number of these will be the least beloved of the tunes found in the Trinity Psalter. We included even the weakest of them because we felt it was important to maintain continuity with the Scottish Psalm singing tradition. What they lack in beauty they compensate for in durability. Psalms 17, 75, 95, 119III, 121, and l27 are quite good. Psalm 41 is among the best.
Back then to the question, how are we to learn these more unfamiliar and sometimes more difficult tunes? You can urge your church to sing most of the familiar tunes right now on Sunday mornings. Then encourage introducing the unfamiliar on Sunday nights. Perhaps start a “Psalm-of-the-month.” Sing the same Psalm every Sunday night, more or less according to difficulty, until it is mastered. Then go on to the next. Do twelve a year over five years and you will have learned most of them!
John McNaugher (ed), The Psalms in Worship, Still Water Revival Books, 1992
(1 907), 589 pp.
Michael Bushell, The Songs of Zion, 2nd Edition, Crown and Covenant (1993),
Hughes 0. Olds, Worship Thai Is Reformed According to Scripture, John Knox
Westminster (1984), 202 pp.
Terry L. Johnson, The Family Worship Book, Christian focus, 1998.
His Mercy Fills the Earth: Trinity Psalter Selections (CD & cassette tape), (includes fifteen of our Psalm/tune combinations) Crown and Covenant, 1995 (available January, 1995).
The Psalms of Scotland, CSC Music Limited, 1988. Includes five of our
Psalm/tune combinations, plus three other of our tunes.
Trinity Psalter: Psalm Leader’s Edition, Crown and Covenant (available Fall, 1999).
Psalms of Praise, Crown & Covenant Publications, 1996. Includes eleven of our Psalm/tune combinations.