Praise Is Your Right, O God, in Zion


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Performance Notes:

Psalm 65 is best known as the "Thanksgiving Psalm" or "Harvest Psalm." Images of a bountiful harvest and a good earth abound, with the emphasis falling on the goodness of God and God's many blessings in nature: The valleys "shout for joy" and the little hills "rejoice on every side."

The second verse, with its reference to our mortality ("to you shall all flesh come") is a reminder also that God's goodness extends beyond this life. The connection to the Old Testament harvest festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, and in turn to its New Testament parallel in the feast of Pentecost, makes it a fitting psalm for any festive church occasion.

Since Thanksgiving is usually celebrated on the holiday weekend, many choir directors must put up with a small-er-than-usual choir. Several fine composers have written first-rate anthems based on Psalm 65 that are quite within the range of a small-to-average church choir. G.I.A. has recently published a Goudimel setting using the same text by Stanley Wiersma as found in the Psalter Hymnal and Presbyterian Hymnal. Other personal favorites include settings by Maurice Greene, Keith Bissell, and Healey Willan.

Genevan 65 is a good psalm tune for congregations who think they don't really like singing Genevan melodies. It is one of the more easily singable of these tunes, with its straightforward rhythm and a narrow range suitable for all voices. The tune has no rhythmic complexities such as syncopations, hemiolas, or changing meters, and most of the melody falls within the range of a fifth, "e" to "b."

The structure is also very simple: lines one and two are exactly the same, and lines three and four, though melodi-cally different, are rhythmically the same. In line three, the leap of the fifth that characterized the first two lines is replaced by mostly stepwise movement. In addition, there is a change to the relative major key and rhythmically the pace quickens. The resulting effect is one of a gentle crescendo: images of blossoming and bearing fruit come to mind. Repeating the rhythm but not the melody in line four provides a wonderful and very effective synthesis: the minor mode of lines one and two returns, but this time with the more active rhythmic pattern of line three.

In short, this Genevan tune, though in a minor mode, is a sturdy and a wonderful expression of "serious mirth"—the kind of deep joy you feel when you are moved by a glorious sunrise, or an abundant harvest, or any other expression of God's goodness and glory, especially in nature.

The harmonization of "Praise Is Your Right" offered in the Psalter Hymnal and Presbyterian Hymnal, though perfectly acceptable, clothes the melody in a choral garment. Harmonizing each note, including the short ones, lends a certain gravity to the melody. A harmonization in which the unaccented eighth notes are treated as "nonessential" notes encourages a more flowing and flexible style for unison congregational singing. The harmonization here is offered as an alternative.

Text Information:

Praise for God's boundless goodness to his people

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-4
st. 2 =vv. 5-8
st. 3 =vv. 9-13

Psalm 65's praise of God's goodness ranges across the spectrum of his mercies: God forgives the people's sins so that they may enjoy sweet communion with him at the temple (st. 1); stills the turbulence of the nations so that his people are secure in their land (st. 2); blesses the promised land with a taste of Eden (st. 3). The range of these reflections and the power and beauty of their imagery make this psalm one of the most beloved in the psalter.

Stanley Wiersma versified Psalm 65 in 1980 for the Psalter Hymnal. A hymn based on this psalm is found at 458.

Liturgical Use:
Thanksgiving Day and other occasions of gratitude for God's blessings; whenever the church looks forward to redemption in the new creation.

Tune Information:

GENEVAN 65 appears twice in the Genevan Psalter. It was originally composed to accompany Psalm 72 in the 1551 edition of that psalter and was later matched with Theodore de Beze's versification of Psalm 65 in the 1554 edition. Composed in Aeolian (minor), this tune consists of four long phrases in bar form (AABC) unified by similar melodic and rhythmic patterns. Dale Grotenhuis wrote the harmonization in 1985. Because 65 is a joyful psalm, it calls for jubilant singing, brisk accompaniment, and a moderate tempo.


Song Audio: 
Psalm 65
Song Number: 
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