Sunday, July 1, 2012

For You Have Set Me Free

One of the readings for this particular Sunday from the Revised Common Lectionary (used in many churches across various denominations) is Psalm 30.  In some places, the psalms are sung in metrical paraphrases (what most people would consider hymns) rather than read or chanted.

The following paraphrase of Psalm 30 is from The Psalter (1912), a collection chosen and assembled by several different subdivisions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and Canada, working together. 

God, I will praise your name,
For you have set me free,
Nor suffered foes to claim
A triumph over me;
O Lord, my God, to you I cried
And you have health and strength supplied.

You have my soul restored
When I was near the grave,
And from the depths, O Lord,
You graciously did save;
O blessed saints, sing to the Lord,
God's holiness with thanks record.

God's wrath is quickly past,
God's favor lives for aye;
Though grief a night may last,
Joy comes at break of day;
In my prosperity secure
I said, “My peace shall still endure.”

The Psalter, 1912; alt.
Tune: GOPSAL (H.M.)
George Frederick Handel, c. 1750

The tune GOPSAL was indeed written by Handel, and is apparently not an arrangement from one of his other works.  In 1826, the composer Samuel Wesley (son of Charles Wesley and father of Samuel Sebastian Wesley) was cataloguing the music in the library of the Fitzwiliam Museum at Cambridge, and he discovered three tunes by Handel still in manuscript, never published.  Samuel described them in a letter to his wife:

"...fine Hymn-Tunes from Handel's own manuscript, and what is uncommonly fortunate, they are all set to my father's own words, so that my dear father's poetry must have highly delighted Handel."

GOPSAL, originally called THE RESURRECTION, accompanied Charles Wesley's hymn Rejoice, the Lord is King, and is still sometimes sung with that text.  Its new(er) name comes from Gopsal Hall, the former residence of Charles Jennens, who wrote the texts for some of Handel's choral works, including Messiah.

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