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What's In A Name?

We are often asked what made us choose P.S.A.L.M. for the name
of our little worship group when it was first formed in 1992.
At the time we were being asked to help introduce some of the more modern worship songs into local churches -
and everyone knows with what reluctance new praise is accepted.
But the phrase that kept running through our minds was -
"Sing to the Lord a new song" -
a phrase that is repeated often in the Scriptures.
Nowhere could we find anything about only singing old songs!
That led us to really examining the Psalms -
that glorious collection of songs that are so spontaneous,
deal with real problems of the day
and portray every human emotion - even those we would rather forget!

How did they sound when they were first sung?
Have you ever looked at the little directions
at the top of each Psalm in your Bible?
They give all sorts of suggestions as to how they were accompanied -
with flutes, stringed instruments, trumpets, cymbals.
These instruments can all be reproduced by a modern keyboard - or midi -
so why should such modern devices not be used in worship?
Even the hallowed pipe organ was once considered
to be brash and modern -
and even by some, a device of the Devil!

We know little about the actual tunes that were used in the -
but the titles of some are found in those instructions.

Psalm 75 says "according to Do Not Destroy!";
Psalm 45 - "according to Lilies" -
and we are even given a clue as to how that one one would sound,
for it says "a love song";
Psalm 22 - " according to Hind of the Dawn" -
that evokes a lovely picture of a deer coming down to a pool to drink
and being caught in the first rays of the rising sun;
Psalm 56 -according to Dove on Far Terebinths"
(we admit, we had to look that up-
a terebinth is a tree that produces turpentine!)

It is thought that the melodies were simply popular tunes of the day -
ones that everyone knew and that were easy to remember -
some were sure to be lively, and others would certainly be lovely!

So, even if we take one of today's familiar tunes and turn it
into a worship song we are in illustrious company.
Johann Sebastian Bach wasn't above such things!
When he wrote both his Easter and his Ascension Oratorios
he used material from previous secular compositions of his.
People objected, of course, but the strange thing is that,
although the oratorios remain for us to enjoy today,
the original secular pieces have been lost!

So the name P.S.A.L.M. - Please Sing a Lively (or Lovely) Melody -
was our way of trying to show the thinking behind our songs.
We try always to be sure that they are Bible-based and,
like the original Psalms,
that they are relevant to today's problems.
And we also hope that they are lively, lovely and easy to remember!

Copyright (c) Elizabeth Tolson
25th December 1998.

"And David danced before the Lord with all his might..."
2 Samuel 6 v.14.

"You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest,
that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present."
Jan Glidewell



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