by Sr Fidelis
Chanting the Psalms
In Gregorian Psalmody the way the tune flows with the Latin texts seems almost effortless. There is a “marriage” that occurs between the words and the melodies. The Psalms are based on Hebrew poetry, and the most common form is characterized by what is known as parallelism. That is, there are two halves within each verse, and each half expresses something closely related to the other half. The second half often reinforces and gives added interpretation to the concepts presented in the first half. An example from Psalm 4, shown first in English, then in Latin is:
I will lie down and sleep in peace, * for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
In pace in idipsum dormiam et requescam, * quoniam tu, Domine, singulariter in spe constituisti me.
The asterisk separates the two halves of each psalm verse, and this demarcation will play an important part in helping us chant the psalms. Each psalm tone has a first and second half which corresponds with the two halves of the psalm verse. We’ll be looking at this in more detail.