Notes on the Genevan Melodies

Divisions, Repetitions, Modes,  Hymns that use them.


How They Are Divided

The tunes of the Psalms can be divided roughly into three groups:

• the tunes of the 50 Psalms in the Geneva edition of 1551, for which Clément Marot provided the text. Louis Bourgeois is usually considered to be the composer, but there is as yet no certainty on this point.

• the tunes of the 34 Psalms for which Théodore de Bèze (Beza) provided the text and which also appeared in 1551. Although the details are not yet clear, it is assumed that Bourgeois composed or edited these tunes as well.

• the 40 remaining tunes, which appeared in the completed edition of 1562. They are usually ascribed to a certain Maistre Pierre, but it has not yet been established whether he composed or merely copied them; his identity also remains uncertain.

Repeated Melodies In the Genevan Psalter

Since 124 tunes are used for the 150 Psalms, some of them are repeated; 15 tunes occur twice, 4 occur three times, and 1 occurs four times. The repeated tunes occur in the following combinations:

Psalms 5, 64
Psalms 14, 53
Psalms 17, 63, 70
Psalms 18, 144
Psalms  24, 62, 95, 111
Psalms  28, 109
Psalms  30, 76, 139
Psalms  31, 71
Psalms  33, 67
Psalms  36, 68
Psalms   46 82  
Psalms  51, 69
Psalms  60, 108
Psalms  65, 72
Psalms  66, 98, 118
Psalms  74, 116
Psalms  77, 86
Psalms  78, 90
Psalms  100, 131, 142
Psalms  117, 127

In the original Genevan Psalter, Psalm 140 and the Ten Commandments (Hymn 11) also have the same tune. Additional Genevan melodies are found in the Song of Mary (Hymn 17) and the Song of Simeon (Hymn 22).

Please note that in the 2014 Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches nine of the Genevan Psalm tunes are used for other Hymns:
Psalm 22 –  Hymn 25
Psalm 42 –  Hymn 15
Psalm 54 –  Hymn 26 (not including coda)
Psalm 56 –  Hymn 64
Psalm 66, 98, 118 –  Hymn 71
Psalm 85 –  Hymn 59
Psalm 89 –  Hymn 3, –  Hymn 35
Psalm 124 –  Hymn 6
Psalm 134 –  Hymn 8

Modes That are Used

In the Genevan Psalter nine different modes are represented.

 | Dorian | Hypodorian | Phrygian | Mixolydian | Hypomixolydian | Aeolian | Hypoaeolian | IonianHypoionian


Please Note: Musical notation prior to 1650 generally does not include bar lines or time signatures. Instead, tunes have a tactus sign that indicates time is to be measured by a down-and-up movement of the hand.

It is generally assumed that in the sixteenth century the half note of the tactus had a duration equivalent to the pulse of an average person (about MM=60).

The Notes  Above are a Modified Copy taken from the Standing Committee for the Publication of the  2014 Book of Praise of the Canadian Reformed Churches.