134. You Servants of the LORD Our God
A closing liturgy at the temple.
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = v. 3
Psalm 134 is the last of fifteen "Songs of Ascents" (120-134) the Israelites sang as they went up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. A brief parting exchange between the worshipers and the temple personnel, this psalm is a fitting conclusion to that collection. Originally this little liturgy may have functioned as the closure to the daily evening sacrifices. As they are ready to depart, the people exhort the Levites to carry on God's praise (even into the night, v. 1; st. 1), and they receive a priestly benediction (st. 2). Calvin Seerveld (PHH 22) versified this psalm in 1981 for the Psalter Hymnal. Because verse 3 echoes the beginning of the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24), Seerveld incorporated part of that benediction in stanza 2.
Close of worship (with st. 2 as a sung benediction); for festive occasions such as ordination and wedding services.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
GENEVAN 134 is one of the noblest and most loved tunes in all of Christendom. It was composed by Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3) and first published in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter, which he also edited. In the Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561 it was set to William Kethe's versification of Psalm 100, "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" (100), and since then the popular name for the tune has been OLD HUNDREDTH.
GENEVAN 134 is also traditionally associated with Thomas Ken's doxology text "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" (638). The Psalter Hymnal retains the slightly altered version introduced by sixteenth-century English psalters: the last phrase of the melody originally began with three half notes. During the last few centuries GENEVAN 134 was usually sung in isorhythm (all notes of equal value). The rhythmic version found in the Psalter Hymnal is certainly preferred to provide a musical vitality that the hymn and the doxology at 638 deserve.
Though GENEVAN 134 should be sung with conviction, its use for this text does not require the jubilant character of the doxology; the psalm text is rather a call to praise (st. 1) and a benediction (st. 2). Stanza 1 can be appropriately sung by the congregation in the traditional harmony, and stanza 2 by a minister or choir using the famous John Dowland setting (1621) with the melody in the tenor (opposite 135 in the hymnal). For festive occasions (such as an ordination or a wedding), the congregation can conclude the psalm by singing the doxology (638).
John Dowland (b. London [?], England, 1563; d. London, 1626) was a well-known composer, singer, and lute player during the Elizabethan era. His greatest ambition was to be a lute player at the royal court in London. When this position was denied him, he served as lutenist in Paris for the British ambassador and in other continental courts, including the court of Christian IV of Denmark (1598-1606). He returned to London and in 1612 was finally appointed lute player for King James I. Dowland wrote numerous songs with lute accompaniment, solo works for lute, and a few arrangements of psalm tunes, including this setting of GENEVAN 134 published in Ravenscroft's Psalms (PHH 59).
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook