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Psalms - For Singing (Introduction)

The Book of Psalms: for thousands of years it has been the congregation's hymnbook ?? Psalms for all occasions, emotions, and human experiences. Only fairly recently in Christian history has its contents been replaced by hymns and sacred songs as the mainstay of congregational singing in worship.


The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) contains a marvelous selection of Psalms from the Revised Common Lectionary for use in worship. Some congregations read these in unison, responsively, or silently. In some churches, they are read by a single reader to be heard by all. Some churches will combine reading the individual verses with singing the musical responses provided; while others have a soloist, the choir, or the people sing the biblical verses, using one of the Psalm tones provided on page 737.

Many believe it is a natural and excellent thing for the Psalms to be sung by the people in worship. The hymnal provides helpful suggestions and instructions for doing this on pages 736-737, and the keyboard edition of the hymnal includes additional instructions and keyboard accompaniments.

Unfortunately, there are obstacles:

  1. The five Psalm tones for congregational singing are all on page 737 of The United Methodist Hymnal, and they do not appear with the individual Psalms, requiring photocopying or page flipping.
  2. There are no accompaniments outside the keyboard edition.
  3. The individual Psalms do not specify which Psalm tone to use with which Psalm.
  4. It is sometimes difficult to match the sense and mood of a Psalm to that of one of the Psalm tones.
  5. More often than not, the Psalm tones and musical responses are in different keys, requiring the accompanist to transpose one or the other, or requiring an awkward modulation between Psalm tone and response.
  6. The Psalm tones included in The United Methodist Hymnal were borrowed from The Lutheran Book of Worship and are copyrighted by the Lutherans.

In an attempt to help congregations and musicians overcome most of these obstacles, these supplemental Psalm tones are made available with permission for copying and using in worship. These alternate Psalm tones will match the key and mood of the musical responses provided with each Psalm, as well as the mood of the Psalm text as much as possible. New Psalm tones will be added to this collection far enough ahead of the Psalm's date of use in the Lectionary to allow for rehearsal. These supplemental tones are fully compatible with the hymnal's instructions on pages 736-737.

All songs related to Psalms can be found here, including those mentioned above.

Categories: Hymns, - General -, Psalms