Learning and Loving the Trinity Psalter

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:

KNOWN TUNES:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Recommended Resources

Books:

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),
240 pp.

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.

Recordings:

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.