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

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….


“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
Toronto Tuppence Press

This page is included with the encouragement and permission of Calvin Seerveld. During my years (19980-1982) as an Aesthetics student with Seerveld at the ICS, our classes regularly ‘tested’ new psalm versifications of his that were earmarked for the coming Psalter Hymnal. Shortly after that I was emboldened to versify Genevan Psalm 42, which you can find in my Beginning booklet.

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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.

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