July 7, 2017

How to Incorporate New Psalm Settings in the Mass


How to Incorporate New Psalm Settings in the Mass

 

Once upon a time, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Be Thou My Vision” were new songs. Brand new. Unheard and untested, we can imagine the level of humility and confidence the great songwriters must have felt as they shared their new piece for the first time. Will this song stick? Will it move the congregation to true prayer and worship? Only time (AND the Holy Spirit) will tell!

 

Balancing heritage of liturgy with new music

Today, we carry on the mission of balancing our rich heritage of worship and liturgy with the newest musical expressions of our faith. Some of the most beautiful poetry and prayer of our faith comes from the psalms, which we hear proclaimed weekly on Sundays. In the psalms, the whole experience of Christian life can be found: the great joy of knowing the Lord and being loved by Him, as well as the overwhelming desolation we feel at times when it seems God is not so near. The psalm settings are, perhaps, the most relatable of all the scriptures, capturing in 150 chapters what it really means to know, love and serve God. We SING the psalms, because we are singing of experiences that we have also had.

 

Presenting Spirit & Psalm

It is our great joy at OCP to offer Spirit & Psalm, a new psalmody for congregational use. This is a highly collaborative project, with many songwriters, producers and editors behind the work. As one of the writers, I can tell you that we made sure to sing the psalms verbatim, while making every effort to offer fresh melodies that are at once beautiful, inviting and singable.

 

How to incorporate the new psalm settings in the Mass

So, how do you begin to incorporate these new psalm settings? With the new liturgical year beginning with the 1st Sunday of Advent, there is no better time to introduce new melodies in the Mass. As we slow march toward Christmas day, parishioners will be drawn into the silence and mystery of the season when they hear the music begin after the first reading. This is a great time to use as much of the new psalter as possible!

When it comes to Ordinary Time, we know that there are common psalms that can be used any given Sunday in place of the psalm of the day. In an attempt to begin to teach the congregation some common psalms that will definitely be used in the future, I’d pick one of the new common psalms from Spirit & Psalm, introduce it on the first Sunday of Ordinary Time (January 14th, 2018), and use it every other week until we get to the first Sunday of Lent. On the Sundays we don’t use the new psalm setting, I’d use the psalm of the day. For those who are bold enough, you might even choose to sing the common psalm for the entire 5 weeks of Ordinary Time between Epiphany and the 1st Sunday of Lent.

For those who are more democratic, you may decide to share the new psalms with your choir first, even allowing a vote for the ones they would like to introduce first, or like the best! You might take your favorites to your pastor, or ask him which ones he’d like to introduce first. A creative approach to introducing the new melodies to your parish could also be playing the setting instrumentally before mass begins as a prelude, or after communion as a meditation. However you decide to do it, we pray that this new resource will truly prove a blessing for you and your community!

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Ben Walther

Ben Walther

Ben Walther is a singer, songwriter, worship leader, husband and a father. In addition to writing and recording music, he travels across the country leading worship and sharing his gifts with God’s people.

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