Psalm 103 sung to Valaam Chant

Vespers in the Byzantine Rite begins with Psalm 103. It is the psalm of creation, sung at the beginning of the new day, and is all the more loaded with meaning at Saturday Vespers, when we usher in the Sunday, looking forward to the Eighth Day of the New Creation. According to the ustav, (or typikon, for those who like Greek words), the Royal Doors remain open during this psalm while the priest censes the church and people, reminding us of the paradise that was open to our first parents through their communion with God. Immediately afterwards, the doors are closed. A Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services tells us that this is to show that our dwelling in paradise was short-lived, and that we are totally dependent on the mercy of God as we turn to Him in prayer in the Great Litany, with the deacon's words, 'In peace, let us pray to the Lord'.

I love the plethora of settings of Psalm 103, but I have, over the past year, developed a fondness for the music of the Valaam monastery in particular. After Jordanville, it is the place I currently most want to visit. Below is the choir of the Holy Cross Hermitage, (music section here), singing an English translation of Psalm 103 to a Valaam setting. It is in its abbreviated form with refrains, as is permitted when Vespers is served as part of the All-Night Vigil.

I think it's beautiful. I have a recording of the Valaam Monastery choir and the setting of the Phos Hilaron on my CD is very similar. They are more complex than - but remind me of - the Carpatho-Russian music that I love, and some of which we occasionally use at my parish. Perhaps there is a simple setting of the Song of Symeon that we can adopt when we resume Saturday Vespers instead of it simply being intoned.

2 responses:

margaret said...

I loved this. Thank you for posting it.

Michael said...

Thank you, Margaret, and welcome! It's good to see you here.

I think it's truly lovely, and am now trying to work out whether I can justify parting with money for some of their CDs. :-)

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