27 August 2003

Gelineau psalmody

Fifty years ago the French priest, Fr. Joseph Gelineau, developed a way of singing the Psalms that preserved the poetic and rhythmic structure of the original Hebrew. This resulted in the Psautier de la Bible de Jerusalem, a predecessor of the English-language Jerusalem Bible and New Jerusalem Bible. Although the JB and NJB did not follow the same metrical structure in their versions of the Psalms, The Grail subsequently translated them into English following Fr. Gelineau's patterns. The Grail Psalter came into widespread liturgical use in Catholic churches in the English-speaking world after the reforms of Vatican II. Catholics learned to sing these to the very few tunes originated by Gelineau. These tunes had the flavour of both metrical and chanted psalmody.

Curiously, the old Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada included a number of Grail Psalms for antiphonal recitation, but it provided no way actually to sing them.

The Grail Psalter is most appropriately used in the cycle of daily prayer practised in the monasteries.

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