Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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Three Psalms - (2005)    

from The Scottish Psalter of 1635
for medium or low voice and organ

for John Cheek, bass


i.  A Tree By the River Side
Psalm 1 paraphrase by Thomas Sternhold, The Scottish Psalter of 1635

The man is blest that hath not lent to wicked men his ear,
nor led his life as sinners do,
nor sat in the scorner's chair.
But in the law of God the Lord doth set his whole delight,
and in the same doth exercise both day and night
He shall be like a tree that grows fast by the river side,
which bringeth pleasant fruit in due time and tide,
whose leaf shall never fade nor fall, 
but flourish still and stand.
So all things shall prosper well that this man takes in hand.
He shall be like a tree that grows fast by the river side,
like a tree.
The way of godly men unto the Lord is known:
whereas the ways of wicked men shall be quite overthrown.
He shall be like a tree that grows fast by the river side.
The man is blest.

ii.  Like as the Hart
Psalm 42 paraphrase by John Hopkins, The Scottish Psalter of 1635

My soul, why art thou sad always,
and frettest thus in my breast!
Trust still in God, for him to praise I hold it ever best.
Like as the hart doth pant and pray,
the wellsprings to obtain;
so doth my soul desire alway,
with thee, Lord, to remain.
My soul doth thirst, and would draw near
the living God of might;
Oh, when shall I come and appear
in presence of his sight.
Alas, what grief is it to think
the freedom once I had!
Therefore my soul, as at pit's brink,
most heavy is and sad.
For I did march in good array,
in joyful company,
unto the temple was our way
to praise the Lord most high.
By him I succor have at need
against all pain and grief;
he is my God who with all speed
doth haste to send relief.
Like as the hart doth pant and bray,
the wellsprings to obtain;
so doth my soul desire alway,
with thee, Lord, to remain.

iii.  Give Laud unto the Lord
Psalm 148 paraphrase by John Pullain, The Scottish Psalter of 1635

All kings both more and less
with all their pompous train;
princes and judges that in the world remain,
Exalt his Name:
Young men and maidens,
old men and babes, do ye the same.



The old-fashioned majesty of these texts is perhaps at odds with today's English-speaking world's enthusiasm for gender inclusiveness in liturgy, but, in discussion with John, we agreed that this verbal majesty is worth continuing alongside the more modern linguistic trends and theological expressions.



The following excerpt is from the second of the three psalm settings, "Like As the Hart." It begins with a through composed recitative expressing the darker sentiment of verse six, and yields to the positive message of the opening verses for the body of this aria, first conceived of for bass.




The other two psalm settings are also lyrical and expressive.


John Cheek


  John Cheek sang a wonderful Marke in Tristan und Isolde at the Florentine Opera in 2004, and was a supportive colleague throughout the rehearsals and performances. Over dinner we shared good food and better drink, many intriguing ideas, and thoughtful reflections.


He suggested solo settings of some psalm texts for him to sing in his Episcopal church in Massachusetts. Because his voice has such lyric capabilities as well as dramatic power, I opted to create lyrical settings all the while imagining his voice in my ears. This was easy to "hear," for we were close enough for me to study his fine technique. Our shared rehearsals and performances had me on my knees before him as he sang K├Ânig Marke's second act monologue.


Three Psalms