Psalm 111

Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1 (ESV)

It would be easy to devote an entire blog post to the contents of Psalm 111, a familiar song of thanksgiving and an excellent model of Hebrew poetry.  But rather than take up too much space here with my own commentary on the Biblical text, I’ll refer you instead to Glenda Mathes’s meditation on Psalm 111.  (This article is especially fitting for this week as Christians around the country celebrate the National Day of Prayer.)  For my part, I’ll devote the rest of this short post to an outline of the single Psalter Hymnal setting of Psalm 111.

222, “O Give the Lord Whole-Hearted Praise”

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

It may be a coincidental surprise that Psalter Hymnal number 222 happens to be a versification of Psalm 111.  Thankfully, the text of “O Give the Lord Whole-hearted Praise” contains no surprises.  Originating in the 1912 Psalter, this setting is a basic yet complete version of the psalm, with no significant discrepancies between this text and our English Scriptures.

The tune, GERMANY, is quite easy to sing once learned.  However, there are quite a few incidences of melisma in the soprano and tenor lines (the slurs across “I” and “people” in the second line, for example), which can potentially mislead the singers.  Playing through a single stanza before singing (as well as emphasizing the first note of each two-note slur) should prevent this problem.

With regard to key, GERMANY is one of the most versatile tunes I know.  It usually appears in hymnals in one of three keys: Ab, A, or Bb.  Any one of these should be a good fit for an average congregation.  For accompaniment, you might consider starting in one of the lower keys, than rising to Bb for the last verse.

Number 222 is adaptable for many situations of worship.  The entire psalm could be sung at the opening of a service, particular stanzas could be selected for a commemorative occasion, or the last few verses could be used for instruction.  The entirety of the psalm is an excellent choice for a memorial or Thanksgiving Day service.  In any case, Psalm 111 is a song of gratitude that should be in every church’s regular repertoire.

“The wondrous works that God has wrought
His people ever keep in mind,
His works with grace and mercy fraught,
Revealing that the Lord is kind.”

–MRK

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