Newmaker Notes

The Gift of Genevan psalmody for today

sprung from its historical context

Calvin Seerveld

speaking about Genevan Psalm 47
as sung by the Pax Christi Chorale
Audio file of Seerveld's take on Genevan Psalm 47

Excerpt from a CD recording (track 6) of a lecture-recital
by Calvin Seerveld, professor emeritus of Philosophical Aesthetics
at the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto.

.... And to give a graphic example of how lively and versatile Genevan Psalms found homes, I could show you Psalm 47 printed in Lyon, 1557, with a border including frogs, apes, centaurs, pan pipes, vielle, bare-breasted nymphs lounging in sensuous water.

This was a luxe edition, not used in Genevan churches. But Genevan 47 has a rollicking dance beat what gives the lie to the false stereotype of grim severity often ascribed to Genevan psalms. Let's hear Genevan 47 sung before I make a critical remark....

(audio sample includes two verses of Psalm 47 sung by the Pax Christi Chorale, under the direction of Stephanie Martin)

No wonder her majesty Queen Elizabeth I found 'the Genevan jigs,' as she is said to have called them, to be irreverent! But Louis Bourgeois correctly caught the boisterous, Jewish rough-hewn exuberance of Psalm 47--`Clap your hands, people! Shout!! The ascended Lord rules the bully nations of the world!' And these seasoned artistic-composer, Genevan-based Reformers were serious....

Featured CD

"The Gift of Genevan psalmody for today, sprung from its historical context," is available postpaid in Canada for $18 and postpaid in the USA for $21.

For further details and other publications by Calvin Seerveld visit

This page is included with the encouragement and permission of Calvin Seerveld.


About: Newmaker Notes - writings, photos and collections - by Henry J. de Jong. Newmaker is the spirit that drives a lifetime of creativity, and is a reflection of the Creator who continues to make all things new.

Henry was a student of Calvin Seerveld at the ICS from 1980 - 1982.