Hi, I’m Gordon Johnston — organist, conductor, harpist, composer and big-time lover of congregational singing. For the past 34 years I’ve been the Director of Music at St John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Ottawa, Canada. Born in Calgary and educated in the US, organ and church music have been a life-long passion for me.
All my life I’ve been trying to get people to sing in church, enticing everyone to participate in singing. Writing psalms has been a particular preoccupation. I’ve been commissioned to write two complete cycles of psalms for the Revised Common Lectionary, one for the Roman Catholic publishing house Novalis, and one for the Anglican Book Centre (now available at http://baspsalms.ca). I also wrote a complete three-year cycle of psalm settings based on the psalm paraphrases of Nan Merrill, author and founder of Friends of Silence (available at http://www.PsalmsForPraying.com).
Everything was going along swimmingly — then the Covid-19 pandemic strikes, and church is closed completely. After six months, we are allowed to re-open cautiously with reduced capacity, and an instruction from the diocese that there must be NO congregational singing. Although we’re allowed a solo cantor (masked), the cantor is specifically instructed not to sing anything that might tempt the congregation to sing along. Poor congregation!
So, in order to keep people from being tempted to sing, these psalms are composed for cantor alone. They use two psalm-tones each in an attempt to add some musical variety and interest.
I hope they add some good musical energy to your Covid-tide worship.