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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Albums (7) or (5.1) - Psalms for the Church Year IV (1990, GIA)

Funny how memory works (or doesn't).

In my last album post, I highlighted 1991's Cries of the Spirit, Volume 1 as the next musical release we had after Safety Harbor (1989), but as I looked back over the CDs themselves, our collection Psalms for the Church Year IV actually came out first. I suppose a little research could have prevented this faux pas of bloggery, but I shall endeavor to get back on the right track.

And if that weren't bad enough, it was also into this collection that a couple of the AssemblyBook psalms, released to me from NALR's copyright ownership by OCP in their acquisition of the company, ended up appearing. Some did in fact end up in Volume 2 of CotS, but two were in this collection as well, and one ended up in the first couple of incarnations of Gather Comprehensive.

GIA's Psalms for the Church Year series began with the venerable classic collaboration between Marty Haugen and David Haas, who contributed several songs each and also collaborated on some settings in the first volume. Marty did volume 2, and Jeanne Cotter wrote music for the psalms in volume three. Our Volume Four had eleven tracks: four were just imported from Safety Harbor, two (Psalm 34 and Psalm 68) were from the psalm repertoire of the defunct AssemblyBook, and the remaining five were psalm settings that I used with some frequency and I thought would round out the collection as a listening experience. One, Psalm 31, "I Place My Life," we re-recorded with Terry singing it on our 1998 collection This Very Morning, hoping that more people would hear it in the context of other music for Holy Week and Triduum.


A highlight of the recording for me was having our friend (and the musician who ultimately took over as music director after I left St. Jerome's in 1994) Mike Wieser sing the cantor part on two of the psalm settings, "I Place My Life" and the Cat Stevens "O Caritas" flavored "Harden Not Your Hearts." Mike's rich baritone had graced our recording of the musical Lost and Found as the voice of Papa, and his experience in theater and opera both contributed to making those tracks simmer and sparkle with emotion.

I was also proud of some of the metric paraphrases I had done on the psalms I had adapted for AssemblyBook, none more so, really, than the verses of "You Have Made a Home for the Poor," which was included in the first editions of Gather Comprehensive at GIA, and if one can believe reprint usage reports, were fairly well received. Just as an example, one section of the psalm in the lectionary (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), reads:
The father of orphans and defender of widows
is God in his holy dwelling.
God gives a home to the forsaken;
he leads forth prisoners to prosperity.
A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance;
you restored the land when it languished;
your flock settled in it;
in your goodness, O God, you provided it to the needy.
These verses I rendered as:
A mother to the orphan, the widow's strong defender,
This is how our God is: both terrible and tender.
With mercy for the lowly, God builds for them a home,
And leads them into freedom in a land to call their own.
Upon a thirsty nation, you rained refreshing rain,
And when your own were starving, you gave them life again.
So where there once was nothing, a nation formed and grew.
A home at last, a country vast, the poor received from you.
As with Cries of the Spirit, some of these songs go back to the earliest days of my songwriting, when I was still in college. The earliest composition was Psalm 119, Happy Are Those Who Follow, which I wrote for some weekday mass during college, probably in early to mid-1972 or so. As I mentioned some of them were much later, the collaborations with Gary being written in the late 1980s and I'm guessing that the actually writing of "I Place My Life" may have been as late as Lent of 1989 or even 1990.



The psalms I most commonly used of this group were Psalm 95, Harden Not Your Hearts, and Psalm 146, Praise the Lord, My Soul, because they are so useful in the lectionary both as proper psalms and as seasonal (common) psalms during Ordinary Time. Really, who's going to use my version of "Cry of the Poor" as long as they can get their hands on the John Foley classic? Which is fine! But what I wanted to say was that there was definitely an osmotic effect of this music on the children, and Desi especially, since he got dragged with us on so many concerts and gigs, as well as having the privilege of attending mass in the parish all the time. I hope to leave you with a very brief video of Desi as a toddler, sitting on the couch at some time, and doing what kids do: imitating what they see us grown-ups doing. Hilarity ensues. We haven't forgotten this scene in the fifteen intervening years.

Finally, a friend just asked me if there was a "SongStory" about "Psalm 8: How Glorious Is Your Name." It's not a long story or a dramatic one, but there's this: I wrote Psalm 8 right after I announced to my friends at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix that I had, happily, been hired as the music director at St. Jerome's, a few miles up I-17. I told a bit of this story in my personal "triduum" story in the blog post entitled, "Anniversary: My Half-life as a Music Director" back in March. I had worked at the cathedral, and co-directing the diocesan chorale, for a number of years, and had good friends there, and a longtime mentor by the name of Jim Mahoney. One of the wonderful cantors at the cathedral was a dear woman named Aleene Fuentes. When she heard I was leaving, she asked me to write a piece of music with her in mind. One of the approaching Sundays was Trinity Sunday, and in year 1983 (another year C year) the psalm was Psalm 8. So I wrote Psalm 8, and she didn't like it very much! I think it was too angular harmonically, the way the verses play around in related keys and don't stay very close to home (compared to songs she liked, I mean.) Luckily for me, though, the song grew on her, and she told me so many times in the months and years afterward.

OK, enough about this album. As promised, here's a one-minute clip of Desi, about age 3, singing part of track 9 and track 11, accompanying himself on guitar. "I'm Gary," he says. If this player doesn't work for you, try this YouTube link.


Track List (clips of all songs available on GIA's website here.)
  1. Psalm 32: I Turn to You
  2. Psalm 30: I Will Praise You, Lord (music by Gary Daigle)
  3. Psalm 34: Cry of the Poor
  4. Psalm 31: I Place My Life
  5. Psalm 8: How Glorious Is Your Name
  6. Psalm 119: Happy Are Those Who Follow
  7. Psalm 95: Harden Not Your Hearts
  8. Psalm 63: My Soul Is Longing
  9. Psalm 68: You Have Made a Home for the Poor
  10. Psalm 116: I Will Walk in the Presence of God
  11. Psalm 146: Praise the Lord, My Soul