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Hallo again to all.

Page 74 in the St Mary Chant Book We enjoy church choirs. We enjoy listening to them, watching them, and singing in them. At times in our church lives, we have been in the stalls and at others in the pews, but in either case choirs are integral to our idea of corporate worship. Though we value the meditative qualities of the spoken rite, in a corner of our consciousness we still hear the Psalm sung or the Sanctus in harmony whilst reciting the text from the prayer book.

Here we are in the middle of Lent, with Palm Sunday, the Triduum, and the celebration of Easter all fast approaching with a turn of the calendar page this week. Choirs everywhere are working hard to prepare for all the extra times they will be in the stalls in just two more weeks.

While at its most basic level choir practice serves as a music rehearsal, we find the mid-week and Sunday pre-service sessions to be times of reflection on the texts and the ecclesiastical meaning of the season. And what a musical smorgasbord we are preparing! Lenten solemnity, triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Lord's Supper, arrest, crucifixion, the darkness of death, and finally the glorious resurrection – powerful emotions and events represented in a myriad of styles and arrangements by composers old and new, all purposefully chosen by the parish's musician to enhance a priest's vision for worship.

Recently, the lectionary featured Psalm 121. We found our mind drifting and started cataloguing the different settings of this text we have sung over the years. Mendelssohn's three-part treble setting from Elijah, plainsong and Anglican chant settings like this one by Walford Davies (listen to it here) or Barnby.

Our mental wandering quickly shifted to considering images this text brings to mind for us. Flying over mountain ranges, we have spent the entire flight humming Malcolm Williamson’s setting for choir and congregation while peering eagerly out the window. We have been known to break into the Mendelssohn while at sea in the midst of towering swells. We have found plainsong settings running through our head as we walk along rivers in rugged and unpopulated places. One Psalm, many settings, many images, all bringing us closer to the Almighty.

And so, dear reader, we ask what image does 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills' conjure for you? Do you have a favorite setting of this Psalm?

Please write and tell us. Or, you may post a comment on our Facebook page with a link to your picture to share about Psalm 121.

We look forward to reading your letters and comments.

See you next week.

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30 March 2014

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