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Psalms Project – ‘Singing Psalms’

Psalms Project – ‘Singing Psalms’

Responsorial Psalms set to Simple Chant for Year A
Music by Alison Cadden and Peter Thompson

In time for the coming liturgical year beginning on Advent Sunday (28 November 2010), a new publication – the last in a series of three – has been produced by the Church of Ireland designed to encourage more psalm singing in churches. The publication contains simple musical psalm settings for all the psalms needed for the liturgical year. Like volumes one and two,

Singing Psalms – Year A contains fresh and engaging simple chants for the psalms.

The publications have resulted from a feeling that the practice of singing psalms has been somewhat lost in parishes. In an attempt to recapture the richness and variety of emotion expressed within the psalms, the Liturgical Advisory Committee (LAC) of the Church of Ireland asked musicians Alison Cadden and Peter Thompson to devise a way of setting the psalms to music that can be sung by anyone.

Alison Cadden and Peter Thompson say, ‘Whether there is a congregation of ten or a hundred, no choir or a large chorus, Singing Psalms will work effectively – all that is needed is the prayer book and a copy of this new publication. The publication of Singing Psalms – Year A completes the full lectionary cycle of responsorial psalms and marks the culmination of this important project by the LAC. We are delighted to see the full set in print and hope that they will be used to reinvigorate psalm–singing throughout Ireland and beyond.’

Singing Psalms – Responsorial Psalms set to Simple Chant – Year A sets out the psalms  in a clear and easy to use manner.  It also contains Appendices covering Saints’ Days, Holy Days and the Easter Vigil, and contains cross–references to the other two volumes. 

It is published by The Columba Press, price £12.99 or €17.99 and will be available from the Good Bookshop, Belfast and the Resource Centre, Rathmines, Dublin. 

Examples of singing psalms 

Psalm 104

Psalm 118

Psalm 16

Psalm 23

Psalm 31

Psalm 47


Review of Singing Psalms which appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette on Friday 21st January 2011

SINGING PSALMS: RESPONSORIAL PSALMS SET TO SIMPLE CHANT – YEAR AAuthors: Alison Cadden and Peter Thompson Publisher: Columba Press; 103pp

THIS BOOK, providing an easy and attractive way of singing the Psalms, as prescribed in the Lectionary for the Principal Service on Sundays and Holy Days in Year A, completes a three–year programme for each of the liturgical years A, B and C (years B and C have not previously been reviewed in these pages).


There can be no more important resource put at our disposal, because Christian worship, emerging from the worship of judaism, has its roots and foundation in singing the Psalms.In the Church of Ireland, we have been reared and nurtured by singing Psalms to Anglican chant which, when well done, can be beautiful and reflective.

Sadly, many congregations nowadays find such chanting difficult, even irrelevant, with the result that the singing of the Psalms in this traditional way tends to be avoided altogether and the Psalm is often replaced by a hymn which isn’t always relevant to the mood of the appointed Psalm.


In its heartfelt desire to preserve the importance of psalmody in our liturgical worship, the Liturgical Advisory Committee has rightly used the talents and expertise of two of its members who are gifted musicians, Alison Cadden and Peter Thompson, by commissioning them to provide a fairly easy and attractive way of singing the appointed Psalms in a responsorial manner.

Mr Thompson had already produced some settings of this kind for use in his own parish of Donaghmore (Armagh), based on simplified Anglican chanting, with the minimum amount of pointing, which are very easy to (pick up’ and sing with conviction. These settings also have the advantage of providing an attractive congregational refrain.

Mrs Cadden follows a similar pattern, but her way of indicating the precise word where a note changes in the chant is by underlining the actual word itself.

Nothing could be simpler and, again, the congregational response is very singable and ‘catchy’.The really important feature of these settings of the Psalms is that they are not hymn–like paraphrases, but are actually preserving the exact wording from the current Prayer Book Psalter and the mood of each Psalm is enhanced at intervals by its very singable responsorial refrain.

The settings also have the capacity of ensuring that the Psalms should be sung rather than said. After all, the Psalms were always sung from the earliest days of judaism. The Oxford Dictionary defines psalmody as )the arrangement of Psalms for singingx and the Latin word psalterium refers to the stringed instruments in both jewish and early Christian worship to accompany the singing of psalms.

Mr Thompson and Mrs Cadden have provided a real service to the Church of Ireland with this new form of singing the Psalms. Hopefully, the settings will encourage congregations to sing them regularly and persevere in growing accustomed to their genre.

Congregations tend to “switch off” on hearing a new hymn tune for the first time and forget that some of the most popular hymns were all new and unfamiliar to start with.

Repetition is often the key to becoming acclimatised to new forms of music and the more these Psalms are used in worship, the more meaningful and acceptable they will become. Let’s use them and grow to enjoy them.

+Edward Darling