Friday, March 23, 2012

March Psalm Sing, and a Question

We had another psalm sing last Saturday.  I thought the singing sounded especially nice, though listening to the recordings, I'm not sure whether the singing was better than usual, or I just like the tunes more!

We practiced three tunes: Sheffield, Colchester, and Sawley.  You might recall that we've done Sheffield at a psalm sing before, but Jesh thought we could use some review.  I do think we sounded more confident with the tune this time around.  We also practiced Colchester--one of my favorites.  I like the way the first line marches downhill.  You wouldn't think a downhill tune could sound so triumphant, but it does!  It's a perfect fit for the second half of Psalm 46.  And we worked on Sawley, a more thoughtful tune, and one of my sister's favorites--a beautiful tune.

Here are the three recordings:

Psalm 22:22-26 to Sheffield

Psalm 46:7-11 to Colchester

Psalm 62:1-6 to Sawley

I hope you enjoy these recordings!

Now I have a question for you.  I know that a few of you are experts on Scottish psalm tunes.  I'm curious about the tune Gairloch.  I've heard about the tune's origins, but failed to write down the info at the time, so now of course I have forgotten the details.  I am wondering: who wrote the tune?  When was it composed?  Is it now in print or has it been in print?  Here in Texas we sing the tune with the parts that my mother wrote for it.  Do others use different harmonies, or do they generally just sing the melody line?  Thanks for any info that you can share!

P.s.  I know that I said, some time ago, that I would be making CDs of our psalm recordings.  I do still plan to do this at some point, but due to my busy schedule, I have had to postpone the task for the time being.  I'm sorry!


  1. Hi Sharon
    Gairloch was written by the Rev. Roderick Mackenzie who unfortunately became more well known for creating a division in the 1940s within the FPCS that led to the departure of many good people from St Judes Glasgow. The issue was protest. He was a first class preacher, however, and there are commendable things to say about him as a person despite the very regrettable division that came about due to his misguided campaign.

    Anyway, he was previously minister in Gairloch and the manse is as you may know in a commanding position looking over Gairloch Bay. Paste the following into a browser,+Scotland,+United+Kingdom&aq=0&oq=gairloch+scotland&sll=-38.658516,178.023972&sspn=0.072788,0.110378&vpsrc=6&t=h&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Gairloch,+Highland,+United+Kingdom&ll=57.728163,-5.693573&spn=0.001555,0.003449&z=18&iwloc=A&layer=c&cbll=57.728157,-5.694048&panoid=tOzp9EZMRX3H_kJDToem3g&cbp=12,28.11,,0,1.16

    The tune was suggested by the waves rising and falling and coming in and going out. I'm glad you like it as it's seen by some over the border as rather too Scottish!

  2. Thanks for the information about the tune. And thanks for the link--what a beautiful view from the Gairloch manse!

    Most of us here in Texas do like the tune Gairloch. Seems like we usually use it for the last few stanzas of Psalm 45.

  3. I'd never thought of any of these three as such slow tunes! I can understand a tune that is very plain being used for slow singing, but a tune with lots of variation and rhythm like these I would expect to take not much more than half the time. I guess this type of slow singing is typical of the west coast and islands, and I wouldn't have thought at least the last two of those tunes were well known there. Having said that, I would also perceive the tune Barrow as having a rhythm that needs to be "kept going" if you see what I mean, yet it seems to be known and used as a slow tune in some circles.

    As for the beautiful view from the Gairloch manse, visiting Gairloch is associated in my mind with two things (though not exclusively), driving lessons (the first time I ever visited the place) and going to the dentist. We spent a few hours of a lovely warm day on the beach after I had a tooth out once, and the water was actually warm, which is rare indeed in Scotland in my experience. Then soon after leaving Gairloch a certain baby boy suffered from the winding roads, a fact which I had forgotten until as a 5 year old he repeated the ummm... experience on a winding road in England on our recent holiday. I think he got the problem from his father's side of the family though!

  4. Peter, it's interesting that you say tunes with more variation should be sung more quickly. I always thought that if you sing a complicated tune too quickly, and the congregation is not made up of professional singers, the quality of the singing will suffer (I formed this opinion after attending a church where most of the singing was done literally twice as fast--and I heard a lot of missed notes).

    That said, I can see Sheffield and Colchester as being sung a bit more quickly, but Sawley I think of as a thoughtful tune, and therefore to be sung more slowly. My family and I first learned Sawley in a Dutch Reformed church, where it was sung even more slowly than this (and accompanied by a huge organ, of course).

    It's interesting to hear different perspectives on tune speed, and which tunes should be sung more slowly or more quickly. Different people have very different opinions on the subject.

    I should post a recording of our congregational singing several years ago, as an example of REALLY slow singing. :)

  5. The Dutch Reformed friend. Good, we in the Netherlands like slow singing. We will see whether this example is slow enough for us.


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