A Helpful Tool for Anglican Chant

Review by Jason Abel

The St. John’s Cathedral Psalter was created by Timothy Tuller, canon for music at St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida, and Dr. Carole Clifford. In an attractively bound spiral book, all 150 Psalms are presented and pointed for ease of use in a traditional Anglican Chant format.

Tuller says the publication grew out of a desire to assemble the wide variety of Anglican Chant psalm settings the cathedral had amassed into a single collection as an in-house Psalter for the choir. After the considerable work involved in assembling, the editors thought it might be helpful to make the book available to a larger audience.

The book’s spiral binding makes it ideal for organists and singers who might need to have the book propped open. Other helpful features include ribbons for page markers and a pronunciation guide. The texts, dynamics, and music are all easily legible.

The pointing throughout is clear and logical. Additionally, marks for breaths and carryovers are given to help ease choral consistency. Of particular interest are the markings for crescendos and decrescendos through a phrase. I have not seen this notation used previously; it makes great sense, as it often is difficult to notate such instructions in Anglican Chant psalmody. There are a few typos in the collection, but nothing troublesome.

All of the Psalms are presented in the Coverdale translation. This might be helpful in some places, but could also be a barrier for use in others. English composers of the 18th and 19th centuries created the majority of selections. Therefore, most of the chants are in the public domain. Many of the chants appear in other collections, but some are new to me. Those still under copyright are indicated at the beginning of the book.

I believe this beautifully laid-out Psalter could be a wonderful resource for many music programs. My biggest criticism is that the work does not contain more chants by women or persons of color. The past few years have seen a rise in the need to include long-underrepresented groups of composers, and most music directors are actively seeking to incorporate a broader range of musicians into their programs.

There exist databases of female and African American composers whose inclusion could have helped to offer a more diverse slate. Perhaps a future edition could address this oversight. Nevertheless, this collection can be a helpful tool in choral programs that sing the Coverdale translation of the Psalms regularly. St. John’s Cathedral in Jacksonville is to be commended for promoting this unique form of Psalm-singing that is part of our collective DNA in the Episcopal Church.

Jason Abel is director of music at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia.


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