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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Albums 11—Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2 (OCP, 1996)

Track List

Psalm 69: Turn to God in Your Need
Psalm 126: I Had a Dream
Psalm 17: When Your Glory Appears
Psalm 66: Let All the Earth Cry Out
Psalm 71: I Will Sing Your Salvation
Psalm 98: The Lord Comes to Rule
Psalm 128: All the Days of Our Lives
Psalm 122: The Road to Jerusalem
Psalm 103: The Lord Is Kind
Psalm 33: Song of the Chosen
Psalm 138: On the Day I Called
Psalm 22: Why Have You Abandoned Me
Psalm 97: The Lord Is King

OCP Product Page: Click here for Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2. Includes links to sound clips, octavos, and the CD (not available on iTunes)

The first CD we recorded after my move to the Chicago area in 1994 was Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2.  My desire was to preserve the psalm settings that were first published on You Alone and Do Not Fear to Hope, which were going out of print and not being transferred to the CD medium. Also, there were a number of psalms I had written for AssemblyBook, which was the subscription worship aid that North American Liturgy Resources had attempted for three years or so with John Gallen, S.J., as liturgical consultant. Some of these also had made their way onto GIA's Psalms for the Church Year, Volume 4, as I explained on that blog post.

Of the psalms recorded on this album, Psalm 66, 122, and Psalm 22 had appeared on You Alone (more info at link). When re-recording them for CotS2, we lowered the key of Psalm 66 from A to G, making it a little more cantor-friendly, I think, by lowering the top note from F# to E in the verse.  Psalms 98, 128, and 103 had been recorded on Do Not Fear to Hope. On that record, we had recorded Psalm 98 with a different antiphon (the Christmas seasonal antiphon, "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God"), and half a step lower, in Db. For this recording and the new octavo, I included several antiphons and a total of six through-composed verses, the entire psalm, making it very versatile throughout all three lectionary years.

On this recording, we also just used the three of us as cantors, mostly because we had been performing and, I suppose, marketing ourselves as a trio since Mystery in 1987. And Terry and Gary do the lion's (and lioness's) share of the singing because I prefer to enjoy listening to the recording, and didn't want to hear myself singing the songs later and wishing one of them had done it. I settled on singing two of the songs that didn't require much vocal range or nuance to pull off, "I Had a Dream," to which I also had some emotional attachment, and "On the Day I Called."

Observations. It's hard to determine popularity with some of these settings, because octavo sales are skewed by the presence of many of the songs in both OCP's seasonal missalettes and in their series Singing the Psalms, where many are also anthologized. In octavo sales alone, the most popular of the psalms on CotS2 was "Psalm 138: On the Day I Called for Help." Unlike the original Cries collection, CotS2 did not have a guitar book edition, but the octavos had guitar versions (melody line and chords) in the back pages of the fascicle.

Here are a few words on the songs of CotS2, at least the ones I didn't write about on the earlier recordings mentioned above.

Psalm 69: Turn to God in Your Need—I was trying for the passion of a flamenco song, with guitar-based rhythms and a solid, uplifting melody in 6/8. The verses are more lyric, pleading, with a contrasting third verse (of four) in the relative major key. It only comes around a couple of times on Sunday, and once with a different antiphon which just happens to fit the rhythmic pattern (In your great love, O God, answer me.)

I remember exactly when and where I was when I wrote "Psalm 126: I Had a Dream." It was the summer of 1972 at summer school at DePaul University, Chicago. What a great summer. I also wrote a setting of Psalm 46 that summer called "There Is a River," beating Manion to the title, at least, by over a decade. Yeah, so his song is better than mine, but mine would sound better with David Gates singing it.  The great setting of Psalm 126 is the Huijbers "When (or Home) from Our Exile." I miss that one!

Psalm 17: When Your Glory Appears. Again, this is only used once in the three-year Sunday lectionary, on one of the last Sundays in Ordinary Time. My urtext of choice was the Book of Psalms in the Jerusalem Bible, which, remember, used the then-approved name for God, Yahweh, when it appeared as the tetragrammaton in Hebrew. My friend Tom Conry reproved me for doing this way back then, trying to drive the point home that God's name in the Hebrew scriptures was kind of like an "in" joke, like God saying, "I am who I am — you wouldn't understand," and for us to keep calling God by that name is absurd. So I stopped doing it, but it was too late when the music was in print. In some places, other divine names work fine, in others, a little finesse is required. This is one of those places. Still, in my opinion, it's worth the effort. Through-composed verses and playing between major and minor modes help deliver this psalm text in an organic way.

Psalm 71: I Will Sing Your Salvation. I think that somewhere there was a fever dream where Richard Proulx, Randall Thompson, and The Doors were trying to influence this setting, and they all won. I guess the modal, metronomic feel reminds me of early Proulx like his "Look for Me in Lowly Men" and "Song of the Three Children," the contrapuntal feel of the verses is reminiscent of "A Testament of Freedom" by Thompson. And the blues modality and melodic arc are Jim Morrison-like. I guess I couldn't make up my mind, but the eclectic sound is a metaphor for universal salvation. :-)

Psalm 33: Song of the Chosen. Originally recorded for DNFTH, we re-recorded this with the optional antiphon used for the Rite of Acceptance in the RCIA. The original is still lots of fun, though.

Psalm 93: The Lord Is King. In setting this psalm, I used some ideas from a less-successful setting of this psalm and also of Psalm 97 I had written some years before. The guitar-driven feel of the original music is there in the current version, while the flute descant colors the jazzy refrain. 

Thanks to OCP for keeping many of these songs in circulation. Even if the noose tightens around non-verbatim settings for responsorial psalms (and verbatim ones using older translations, for that matter), remember that songs "inspired by" psalms can be used at lots of times inside and outside the eucharist! And gosh, I'm really sorry that I had to write that sentence.

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