Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Anglican Chant XXXI: Psalm 130, Out of the Deep (Walford Davies)

Here are the Coverdale Psalter words
1  Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord *
 Lord, hear my voice.
2  O let thine ears consider well *
 the voice of my complaint.
3  If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss *
 O Lord, who may abide it?
4  For there is mercy with thee *
 therefore shalt thou be feared.
5  I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him *
 in his word is my trust.
6  My soul fleeth unto the Lord *
 before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch.
7  O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy *
 and with him is plenteous redemption.
8  And he shall redeem Israel *
 from all his sins.

Here's a bit about this Psalm:
This lament, a Penitential Psalm, is the De profundis used in liturgical prayers for the faithful departed in Western liturgical tradition. In deep sorrow the psalmist cries to God (1-2), asking for mercy (3-4). The psalmist's trust (5-6) becomes a model for the people (7-8).

v1. the depths: Here is a metaphor of total misery. Deep anguish makes the psalmist feel "like those who go down to the pit" (Psalm 143:7). Robert Alter points out that '..."the depths" are an epithet for the depths of the sea, which in turn is an image of the realm of death'.[1] Other Bible passages (Creation, the dwelling of Leviathan, Jesus stilling the storm) also resonate with imagery of fear and chaos engendered by the depths of the sea.

v3. 'If you, Lord, were to mark iniquities, who, O Lord, shall stand?. A temporary shift from the personal to the communal; this plurality (the nation, Israel) again appears in the final two verses.

v4. that you may be revered. The experience of God's mercy leads one to a greater sense of God.

In Judaism

  • Psalm 130 is recited as part of the liturgy for the High Holidays, sung responsively before the open Torah ark during the morning service from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. The custom of reciting this psalm during these times had long lain dormant until it was revived in the Birnbaum and Artscroll siddurim in the 20th century.[3]
  • Is recited following Mincha between Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol.[4]
  • Is recited during Tashlikh.[5]
  • It is also among those psalms traditionally recited as a prayer for the sick.
  • In some synagogues, it is said on every weekday. In Hebrew, it is often called "(Shir HaMa'alot) MiMa'amakim" after its initial words.
  • Verses 3-4 are part of the opening paragraph of the long Tachanun recited on Mondays and Thursdays.[6]
Shir hamaalot mima'amakim keraticha adonai Adonai schimah vekoli tiyena oznecha kashuvot Lekol tachanunai Im avonot tishmor ya adonai mi yaamod Ki imcha haslicha Lemaan tivare kiviti adonai Kivta nafshi velidvaro hochalti Nafshi ladonai Mishomrim laboker Yachel yisrael el adonai Ki im adonai hachesed Veharbeh imo fedut Vehu yifdeh et yisrael mikol avonotav.

In literature

The title "De Profundis" was used as the title of a poem by Spanish author Federico García Lorca in his Poema del cante jondo.

A long letter by Oscar Wilde written to his former lover Lord Alfred Douglas near the end of Wilde's life while he was in prison also bears the title "De Profundis" (though it was given the title after Wilde's death), as do poems by Alfred Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Charles Baudelaire, Christina Rossetti, C. S. Lewis, Georg Trakl and Dorothy Parker.

In the novel Fires on the Plain, by Shōhei Ōoka, the character Tamura makes reference to Psalm 130's first line "De profundis clamavi" in a dream sequence.[2]

Here's Wikipedia's entry on Davies:
Sir Henry Walford Davies KCVO OBE (6 September 1869 – 11 March 1941) was a British composer, who held the title Master of the King's Musick from 1934 until 1941.

Early life and education

Henry Walford Davies was born in Oswestry on the Wales-England border, seventh of nine children of John Whitridge Davies and Susan, née Gregory, and the youngest of four surviving sons. His middle name Walford was his maternal grandmother's maiden name; he later dropped his first name Henry, becoming generally known as Walford Davies. John Whitridge Davies was a leading figure in the local musical scene, playing the flute and the cello, and leading the choir at the Congregational church, Christ Church, where his brother was organist. He brought up his children to make music together. Performances of oratorios by Handel and others by Henry Leslie's Oswestry choral society were reviewed warmly in the London Musical Times.

Walford's brothers Charlie and Harold were, successively, organists at Christ Church succeeding their uncle, Charlie from the age of eleven. Charlie died young after emigrating to Australia. Harold also emigrated to Australia, where he took the first musical doctorate from an Australian university and ultimately achieved considerable fame as Professor of Music at Adelaide University and Principal of the Elder Conservatorium. Tom, the eldest, followed a family tradition by entering the ministry.

Walford Davies grew up, like his siblings, playing any instrument he could lay his hands on, often in an informal band with his brothers, cousins and friends, but it was as a singer that he was first noticed and entered, against misgivings from his Nonconformist family, for a choristership at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. In this he was successful, and from the age of twelve he was singing fourteen services a week as well as attending school. Here he came under the influence of Walter Parratt, a leader in the late Victorian organ renaissance, and Randall Davidson, as Dean of Windsor.

Davies studied under, and was assistant to, Parratt for five years before entering the Royal College of Music in 1890 where he studied under Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford.


Davies remained at the College as a teacher of counterpoint from 1895, one of his pupils being Rutland Boughton and another Leopold Stokowski. During this time he held a number of organist posts in London including St Anne's Church, Soho (1890-1891), Christ Church, Hampstead (1891-1898), culminating in his appointment in 1898 as organist of the Temple Church, where Stokowski was also his assistant. Davies continued there until 1917. In 1918 he was appointed the first director of music to the newly created Royal Air Force, which led to him writing the march, "RAF March Past", still played by many marching bands today.

In 1919, Walford Davies was made professor of music at Aberystwyth. He subsequently did much to promote Welsh music, becoming chairman of the Welsh National Council of Music. From 1927 he was organist at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. One of his assistant organists was Malcolm Boyle.

In 1924, Davies became Professor of Music at Gresham College, London: a part-time position giving public lectures.

From the 1920s, he also made a series of records of lectures, which led to his being employed by the BBC. He made radio broadcasts on classical music under the title Music and the Ordinary Listener. These lasted from 1926 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and Davies became a well-known and popular radio personality. His book The Pursuit of Music (1935) has a similar non-specialist tone.

Walford Davies was knighted in 1922. Following the death of Sir Edward Elgar in 1934, he was appointed Master of the King's Music. He died in 1941, aged seventy-one, at Wrington, Somerset and his ashes are buried in the grounds of Bristol Cathedral.

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