The Bay Psalm book is probably unknown to my readers on this side of the Atlantic, and, I suspect, to many in America, and so a little history before listening to the music is appropriate. In 1640 the Massachusetts Bay Colony published the Bay Psalm Book (it was printed by Stephen Daye in the house of the president of Harvard College) this was a remarkable event in American history in several ways. It was the first book to be published in the colonies which would make it an important event in its own right. Even more important however is that it was the first book to be entirely written in the colonies and thus represents an important parting of the ways between America and Britain. "Thirty pious and learned Ministers" amongst them Richard Mather, John Eliot, Thomas Weld, and John Cotton translated the psalms contained in the metrical Psalter. The translations can seem a bit rough, a bit unpolished, and so far as I know none of them are in widespread use today (although many of the tunes to which the translations were sung have survived). In its time it was widely read and used and was used by the Puritan congregations of New England. They used it in preference to the Anglican psalter precisely because it was theirs it was written by their fellow Puritans for them it was an important statement of their independence and of their growing self-confidence. It went through about forty reprintings at first and in all has been reprinted more than a hundred times. The rendition of Psalm 23 which you can hear below the American Boychoir conducted by Fernando Malvar-Ruiz was given during the during the 2014 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve included the text below the video. Enjoy :-).
Text Psalm 23 (Bay Psalm Book):
The Lord to me a shepherd is,
Want therefore I shall not,
He in the folds of tender grass
Doth make me down to lie
To waters calm he gently leads
Restore my soul doth he
He doth in paths of righteousness
For his names sake lead me.
Yea though in valley of death’s shade
I walk none ill I’ll fear,
Because thou art with me, thy rod,
and staff my comfort are.
For me a table thou hast spread
In presence of my foes;
Thou dost annoint my head with oil
My cup it over–flows.
Goodness and mercy surely shall
All my days follow me;
And in the Lord’s house I shall dwell
So long as days shall be.