In honor of the Paris Sacred Harp singers, here’s a tune I wrote based on a French text.
The text is from a French metrical psalter published in 1729, the Psautier Genève. The psalms were set in rhyming metrical poetry by Clément Marot Théodore de Bèze in 1563, and revised in 1729 by the Synode Wallon, published in 1730 in Amsterdam. The text of this psalter is available online here, or (in a form that I find more convenient) here. I note with interest that the 1730 edition, available on Google Books, includes one page introduction to the principles of singing, using solfege syllables; the syllables used were ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and si.
Some of the meters in the Psautier de Geneve are fairly complicated, but I found that Ps. 150 (one of my favorite psalms) had been put into a relatively uncomplicated 7s D. meter (i.e., 188.8.131.52. 184.108.40.206.). The tune I wrote for this metrical psalm is in the style of the First New England School.
I wanted to present the tune to the Palo Alto local singing, but when I tried to sing the French I found it very difficult singing in a foreign language; this gave me a new appreciation for the abilities of non-English speaking Sacred harp singers. Because my French accent was so bad, I decided to add a line-by-line translation in metrical (but non-rhyming) English. Here’s the version I presented to the Palo Alto singers, which we sang in English:
The Palo Alto singers liked the tune. I was reasonably happy with it, or at least happy enough that I figured I would neither embarrass myself, nor give California singers a bad name, if I sent to the tune to the Paris Sacred Harp singers. By the way, the tune is named for the suburb of Paris where the Paris Sacred Harp singers currently hold their local singing.
And here, for purists, is the version I sent to the French singers; if you want to experience what non-English speaking Sacred Harp singers experience, try sight-singing the tune entirely in French:
Finally, for those who are interested: after I wrote the tune, and after we sang it in Palo Alto, I realized I could look up the original melody given in the 1730 Amsterdam book. I transcribed the original melody into shape notes, and here it is: