Singing the ReformationSinging the Reformation


The Wode Psalter

Some time after joining the cause of the Reformation in Scotland, Lord James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray commissioned the Scottish composer David Peebles to set the Scottish metrical psalm tunes in four parts. Wode's comments reveal that he took it upon himself to ensure that Peebles finished the commission, which Wode then collected into a set of partbooks, known today as the Wode Psalter.

Perhaps these settings were never presented to Lord James, later the Regent of Scotland under James VI. Wode instead began to add other music to them. They are now the most complete compendium of music that was present in early modern Scotland, including:

  • 105 metrical psalm settings in 4 parts
  • 18 sacred canticles in 4 parts
  • 26 other pieces of choral and instrumental music
  • 83 airs and sonnets
  • 41 catches and rounds
  • Common Tunes for the metrical psalms in 4 and 5 parts

In addition to music, Wode provided numerous comments on his manuscripts, resulting in the largest body of annotations found in any early modern British musical manuscript. Together they constitute an illustrated 'diary' for the second half of the 16th century.

The Scottish Reformaiton

The Reformation of 1560 was a major event in Scottish history. It involved:

  • the approval of a Protestant Confession of Faith
  • the repudiation of the Pope's authority
  • and the prohibition of the Mass

The new intellectual and cultural climate that this event engendered encouraged new ways of thinking and doing, and the University of Edinburgh itself has its roots in that new environment.

Church life was transformed, and for the newly-promoted congregational singing a metrical Psalter containing Old Testament Psalms was employed.

These texts were presented in relatively plain music settings that would appeal to, and be understood by, everyone in the congregation.




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