What is Metre?
Why Should I Care?
And If I Should Decide to Care, How Do I Use It?
OK, I See the Idea. Now, Why Should I Care
(i.e. What good is it to me?)
One of the goals for this web site is to help anyone who is interested in singing the word of God to find ways to do so. By understanding metre you will be able to use resources on this site to combine settings of the Psalms and other scriptures that we will be posting with appropriate music. And it is quite simple, once you grasp these basic concepts of metre.
Many poets over the centuries have created versions of the Psalms (and other scriptures) that follow these basic metres. For example, the Scottish Metrical Psalter contains all 150 Psalms, most of them set in Common Metre. Isaac Watts wrote a Psalter that contains several versions of each Psalm, one version in each of these metres. We will be providing psalms from several different psalters here. See The Library for a list of psalters we have available and information about each one.
Not only have many of the words of Holy Scripture been set into these standard metres, there is also a lot of public domain music available in these metres. (It is in the public domain because it was written before the existence of copyright laws, or the copyright has been allowed to lapse.) It is therefore possible to create refreshing and uplifting ways to sing the word of God by simply combining a setting of the words with music written in the same metre.
This appears to be essentially what Dwight Armstrong did with many of his songs. Dwight apparently had access to one or more Protestant hymnals that contained these Reformation settings of the Psalms and other Biblical passages. Instead of using existing music, he wrote some of his own and adapted the words from the Protestant source to greater or lesser extent. We have identified several of the Psalms that he appears to have drawn from this kind of source. You can see the list of these Psalms here.
This is also the way many other churches went about creating their church hymns--especially the Presbyterian church. They would either use existing words and create their own music, or they would use music that they loved and choose words that matched its metre. In other cases they used existing words and music, but with slight changes to bring the words in closer agreement with their particular doctrinal outlook.
Today, looking back, we can take advantage of the great effort that has gone before us. Let's conclude this discussion by working through a practical example in "How Do I Use It?"