Featured Song: Hear My Cry, O God (Psalm 61)

Today’s featured song is from Celtic Psalms (Volume 2): Hear My Cry, O God (Psalm 61)

 

Click on the Youtube link below and listen while you read… (Lead vocals: Chloe McGrath)

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SCORE AVAILABLE THROUGH GIA PUBLICATIONS! We are so excited about this resource.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONG NOTES

 

Words: Kiran Young Wimberly, based on Psalm 61

 

Music: Caisléan an Óir (by Junior Crehan, 1908-1998, arr. Kiran Young Wimberly)

 

History of Air: In Irish, the title of this melody means “The Golden Castle,” and the first time I heard it was on Martin and Christine Dowling’s CD A Thousand Farewells. The tune was written by Martin ‘Junior’ Crehan, a fiddler from County Clare (hear him play his melody at minute 3.41). Apparently, he took a slower air, “Caoineadh an tSagairt (The Priest’s Lament),” and injected some liveliness into it to make it into a ‘hornpipe’ (a dance tune). In the middle of the 20th century, Junior saw traditional music falling in popularity, his music friends emigrated to England or America, and his beloved fiddle mentor and friend passed away. In an interview, Junior shares the deep sadness he experienced during that time: “I used to go down the road, and I used, honest to God, I used to nearly cry.”

Yet, during his lifetime traditional music saw a welcome revival in Ireland and aPhoto by Pat Mackenziebroad. An article from 1992 describes one of Junior’s regular music sessions, and you can just picture the scene. “Suddenly an elderly man wearing a cap strolls into the room and is greeted with cries of welcome; you notice he is carrying a fiddle, then you realise that there is a little stage in one corner.  After acquiring a ‘pint of stout’ from the bar, the man with the fiddle mounts the stage, followed by several other men of the same generation carrying fiddles, whistles and bodhrans.  After some desultory tuning and adjusting of the ‘amplification’, they break into a lively selection of reels.  Very soon the dancers are on the floor and Junior Crehan and his colleagues – known affectionately to their family and friends as ‘Dad’s Army’ – have begun another night of music and dancing at Gleeson’s.”

I’d like to think that Junior would have appreciated his tune being used to express deep sorrow that leads toward a sense of hope, as we have done with our Celtic Psalm arrangement.

 

Psalm 61: This psalm begins on an urgent note: “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint” (NRSV). The writer is in distress, feels far away from help, and is losing strength rapidly. Having expressed the desperate plea for God to listen, the writer then asks to be 20150113_131532led to a place of refuge – “the rock that is higher than I” and “a strong tower against the enemy.” The imagery here is striking. Considering the landscape of Ireland, every monastery during the thriving era of early Irish Christianity contained a ’round tower’ that was, quite literally, a high stone tower that served as a place of refuge if the community was ever attacked. We can imagine an Irish Christian in, say, the 5th century, praying these words with the visual of the very tower that sat in the heart of their community – a place of safety and comfort.

In this psalm, there is movement from a desperate plea to a profession of praise, but it’s significant that the writer doesn’t skip over the lament before moving toward hope. “The prayer of lament portrays human life at its most desperate and vulnerable. The inclusion of these prayers in the Bible and in Christian spirituality communicates that human beings are still loved by God, even in their most desperate and self-serving moments” (Billman and Migliore, Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope, p. 193). Not only does God love us through our times of distress, but God hears us, and leads us towards a place of refuge.

 

How to Use This Song: I like to use this song as either a call to prayer or a response to prayer. It can be done fast (as on our CD) or it can be slowed to a more meditative pace (click below). We did this recently with a small choir  – we did verse 1, allowed space for the pastoral prayer, then came back with verses 2 and 3. It was very moving. Listen here for that recording. The prayer is by my friend, Rev. Sarah Schmidt-Lee at First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo.

 

This song is also a favorite among youngsters, and I’ve incorporated it a few times into a children’s sermon. I point out the line From the end of earth I call to you when my heart is faint, and I ask, “What do you think this person means by “the end of earth?” Answers range from “Texas!” to “Hanging off the edge of a cliff!” to “feeling lonely.” The thrust of the message: it’s okay to call out for help, God listens to us when we cry out, even when we think we’re at the edge of the world and that no one can hear us.

See the GIA songbook for vocal harmonies, guitar chords, instrumentation, and piano accompaniment. The fast version sounds best with the bodhran (Irish drum), but any kind of hand drum will also work.

 

Personal Note: We absolutely love singing this song. One night when the McGraths and I were working on our arrangement, Kelly McGrath said, “Hold on, wouldn’t that work as a round?” We then went into fits of giggles trying that out, because we found that it doesn’t work as a round through the entire song – only the first and third portions. The second part sounded like a complete mess! However, we decided that rather than giving up on the round altogether, we’d come back together for part two, then branch out into the round again to finish the song. Once we mastered it, we’ve found that this song always brings us a sense of joy at the end!

 

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Songbook Published by GIA here

CD Available here

Purchase Mp3 Bundle here

Lyrics on our website here

 

Hear us sing Hear My Cry, O God in a Vespers service at the Calvin Worship Symposium, Jan 2017 (scroll to min 27)

 

How have you used this song? Or, if you haven’t tried it yet, how do you think you might incorporate it into a worship service? We would love to hear! 

Featured Song: Praise the Lord, All the Earth (Psalm 104)

Today’s featured song is from Celtic Psalms (Volume 1): Praise the Lord, All the Earth (Psalm 104)

 

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Click on the Youtube link and listen while you read…

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SCORE AVAILABLE THROUGH GIA PUBLICATIONS! We are so excited about this resource…

 

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SONG NOTES

 

Words: Kiran Young Wimberly, based on Psalm 104

 

Music: Thughamar Féin an Samhradh Linn (Traditional, arr. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and Kiran Young Wimberly)

 

History of Air: Thughamar Féin an Samhradh Linn is a traditional melody originating from the Armagh area of the Oriel region in Northern Ireland. The melody is one of the oldest song types in the Irish song tradition and was rediscovered in an archive by the wonderful traditional singer and scholar of traditional song, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin (see her fascinating book A Hidden Ulster: People, song and traditions of Oriel). It was traditionally sung in May to mark the arrival of spring. I was inspired by her version of this song, which appears on her 2002 album An Dealg Óir.

 

Psalm 104: This psalm is known as one of the creation stories within scripture. It tells of God creating the foundations of the world, the elements of nature, and the creatures that dwell on the earth. In this psalm, the whole earth seems to be singing its praise to the Creator God. God creates this beautiful world that we can enjoy, and God also provides for all living creatures – springs for the animals to drink from, grass for the cattle to eat, trees in which the birds can build their nests. And for humans, God provides food from the soil, fruit from the vine “to gladden the human heart” (NRSV), bread to strengthen us, the sun and moon to mark the passage of days and seasons, and even the spirit of life within us. Through this psalm, we’re reminded of the majesty of creation – its intricacy and vastness – but also of our unique place within it. All that we have comes from God, right down to our very breath. And so, with the rest of creation, we sing this refrain: “Praise the Lord, all the earth.”

 

How to Use This Song: This is a wonderful gathering song. It can be used as a Call to Worship with a leader singing the first and third lines of each verse and the congregation singing the repeated second and fourth lines “Praise the Lord, all the earth” – or, the congregation can sing the entire song as a hymn. For instrumentation, we have vocal harmonies, guitar chords, instrumentation, and piano accompaniment in our GIA songbook. Even without a full band, I love having a stringed instrument weave throughout the song, whether a cello (on our CD) or a fiddle (as in the youtube recording above). On a Sunday focusing on this psalm, I have used the last few verses (see below) as a sung response of thanksgiving in place of the doxology.

 

All of these good things you have created
Praise the Lord, all the earth
You give us breath, new life to all
Praise the Lord, all the earth

 

Glory to God forever and ever
Praise the Lord, all the earth
I’ll sing to God all of my living
Praise the Lord, all the earth

 

Personal Note: Some of the most sacred moments in our concerts or worship services come as we sing the last verse, “Glory to God forever and ever,” a capella. There is something quite moving about the words combined with the soaring melody, especially when a congregation is singing in full voice. It’s an uplifting way to begin a time of worship.

 

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Songbook Published by GIA here

CD Available here

Purchase Mp3 Bundle here

Lyrics on our website here

 

Hear us sing Praise the Lord, All the Earth in a Vespers service at the Calvin Worship Symposium, Jan 2017 (scroll to min 8:45)

 

How have you used this song? Or, if you haven’t tried it yet, how do you think you might incorporate it into a worship service? We would love to hear! 

 

Celtic Psalms at Calvin Worship Symposium, Jan 2017

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We were incredibly honored to have been invited to lead worship and teach our songs at the Calvin Worship Symposium last week in Grand Rapids, MI. What an uplifting week! We led two Vespers services for around 800 people per night, as well as two informal workshops teaching Celtic Psalms arrangements for congregational song. We then helped to lead worship on Sunday morning at First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, MI, and shared our psalms at an evening service at Woodlawn CRC, Grand Rapids, MI. Along the way, we made some new musical friends and enjoyed some picturesque, wintry Michigan weather! Looking forward to our next Midwestern tour, someday…

 

View our Thursday Vespers service here:

Celtic Psalms Vesper Video – Calvin Symposium 2017

 

Also, new resources from GIA were released at the Symposium – and they SOLD OUT of what they had brought with them! If you’d like to order choral or congregational arrangements, including instrumental parts, vocal harmonies, guitar chords, and freshly composed piano accompaniment, go to GIA’s website:

Celtic Psalms – GIA Resources for Churches

 

See also these articles put together by the Symposium regarding the background of the Celtic Psalms project in Northern Ireland:

Kiran Young Wimberly on the Celtic Psalms project

Singing Celtic Psalms in Northern Ireland

 

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Upcoming Concerts – Northern Ireland Summer 2016

Dungannon poster

Upcoming Concerts in Northern Ireland!

 

23rd June Thursday – The Square Box, Dungannon, 8pm – FREE ADMISSION

 

 

Armagh poster

25th June Saturday – Armagh Theatre 8pm – £10 entry

 

 

And – in the Cavan area – a concert at 3:30pm on Sunday the 26th! email info@celticpsalms.com if you would like to attend.

 

Video from Celtic Psalms Northeast US Tour

We had a delightful tour of the Northeast US in March! Thanks to all who contributed to and supported our tour. We hope to do it again! Here is a youtube playlist of songs we performed along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Celtic Psalms Northeast US Tour – March 2016 – Dates and Venues

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TOUR SCHEDULE:

 

Friday, March 4th at 7pm – Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ

 

Saturday, March 5th at 1:30pm – Doe Run Presbyterian Church, Coatesville, PA

 

Sunday, March 6th at 10:30am – Laurel Presbyterian Church, Laurel, MD

 

Sunday, March 6th at 4pm – St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Alexandria, VA

 

Wednesday, March 9th at 6pm – Norfield Congregational Church, Weston, CT

 

Friday, March 11th at 7pm – Wellesley Village Church, Boston, MA

 

Sunday, March 13th at 3pm – Metro Baptist Church, New York City, NY

Announcing US Tour – And We Need Your Help!

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