A few posts back, I shared a thought from Making Prayer Real on the idea of music as “prayer in itself, without the words attached” (Wordless Verses“) along with a largely instrumental piece based on a tune for few verses from Psalm 30. More on that specific tune to come. Meanwhile, here is a contrasting approach, seeking to render every word and the sound of the psalm.
“The SHIYR Poets (pronounced “Sheer” not “Shire”)” have been working together for several years to “render the Psalms as sung English poetry.” They are Brian Doerksen, Calum Rees, Brian Thiessen and Teresa Trask.
This is how The SHIYR Poets describe their enterprise:
Using all the translations available (including Robert Alter’s more poetic translation) and seeking counsel from Hebrew scholars, the SHIYR Poets are paraphrasing the Psalms and setting them to modern folk-rock tunes.
Choosing not to censor the difficult verses of lament and anger, the SHIYR Poets render each psalm in its entirety, singing in solidarity with all who suffer. The result is raw yet meditative music, at times unconventional in its form, yet deeply comforting because every generation has prayed and pondered the words of these Psalms.
Taken as a whole, the Psalms are perhaps the most emotionally healthy comprehensive expression of spirituality ever written. These are songs of desire and desperation…songs that demand justice for the oppressed…songs that honour the innocent praise of children…songs about everyday things like sleep.
Their version of Psalm 30 adds a chorus and includes interesting poetic versions of some verses. One favorite:
When you looked away; I fell apart
Broken into pieces; I crumbled into pieces
When you turned away, I fell apart
— Just listen, above, or click through to YouTube to see The SHIYR Poets’ translation
13 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far).