Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Stump the Priest: Singing the Psalms

Question: "I heard you mention a way to memorize the psalms with singing, and I wondered if you elaborate on that?"

Singing is a very effective tool for memorization and instruction in general. I have posted previously about how Handel's Messiah can be useful in helping one to memorize Scripture, and in the hymns of the Church we sign verses from the Psalms, such as in Prokimena, and we also sing entire Psalms. By singing the Psalms, you can make memorizing them much easier then simply memorizing them as texts, and singing the Psalms is itself a spiritually edifying endeavor that the Apostles repeatedly encourages us to engage in (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13).

Here are some practical tips on how to go about this.

First of all, it is important to use a consistent translation. I prefer the "Boston" Psalter, for the reasons laid out in my article on Translations.

I have found it especially helpful to learn to sing songs in Byzantine chant, and there are several CDs out there that use the Boston Psalter translation. Here are two CDs I would recommend for this purpose. The second CD is not exclusively Psalms or Prokimena, but it does contain them:

O Give Thanks Unto the Lord (Hymns from the Psalter, Chanted in English by the Monks of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery)

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Set of 2 CDs -- Contains the choral responses from the Doxology in Matins to the end of Liturgy. Chanted by the sisters of Holy Nativity Convent in Byzantine chant)

You can also get a CD of the Boston Psalter being read: