In 1965 the Very Reverend Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester, approached Bernstein and asked him to compose a work for the 1965 Chichester Three Choirs Festival Festival, Bernstein who was on Sabbatical at the time accepted the commission and wrote about it in an article – much of it in verse, published in the New York Times of October 24th 1965:
Of time to think as a pure musician
and ponder the art of composition.
For hours on end I brooded and mused
on materiae musicae, used and abused;
On aspects of unconventionality,
Over the death in our time of tonality,
Over the fads of Dada and Chance,
The serial strictures, the dearth of romance,
‘Perspective in Music’ the new terminology,
Pieces called ‘Cycles’ and ‘Sines’ and ‘Parameters’—
Titles too beat for these homely tetrameters;
Pieces for nattering, clucking sopranos
With squadrons of vibraphones, fleets of pianos
played with the forearms, the fists and the palms
—And then I came up with the Chichester Psalms.
These psalms are a simple and modest affair,
Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square,
Certain to sicken a stout John Cager
With its tonics and triads in E flat major.
But there it stands the result of my pondering,
Two long months of avant-garde wandering—
My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet.
And he stands on his own two tonal feet.
You'll find Psalm 23 sung by the talented boys of the Escolania de Montserrat – soloist; Joan Rovira. Enjoy :-).