SINGING THE PSALMS
The Book of Psalms was both prayer book and hymnal of the Hebrews, including our Lord. Not surprisingly, they were sung in biblical times, for using musical instruments and singing is frequently referenced in the Psalms themselves. We do not know exactly how the music sounded, but recent research has confirmed the similarity between Hebraic music and early Christian chant. In both the Eastern Church and the Western Church, the singing or chanting of Psalms and the development of hymnody in Greek and Latin persisted. Usually, the Psalms were sung by the clergy or monks and nuns living in community.
With the drive toward more congregational participation at the time of the Reformation, Lutherans often used chorale music for singing the Psalms, and the Calvinists, who had eliminated all musical instruments from worship, sang only the Psalms and without instrumental accompaniment. The Geneva Psalter, developed by the Calvinists, became a most influential worship resource. Some of those 16th century Psalm tunes are still used by us today, for example, the Doxology that we often sing as the gifts are brought to the altar.
In 19th century America, singing the Psalms fell into disuse among many Protestants as gospel music and easily sung hymn tunes held sway on the American frontier. In the middle of the 20th century, liturgical churches, including Lutherans, recovered the tradition of singing them. The Psalms stood at the center of our Lord’s worship and devotional life, and still today, they are central to our own.
–Pastor Dean Bard, October 2010