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Organ music based on Psalms

Richard Dawson

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Hi everyone.

I'm currently in the process of drawing up a recital programme of organ music based on psalms, either their text or melodies.

Outside of the usual Howells and Reger, does anyone have any ideas of repertoire that can be added to this 'category'?


Many thanks in advance for any additions people can think of!




P.S. - I think the Bach Chorale Prelude on 'An Wasserflüssen Babylon' counts?

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If you have time, search the Dutch repertoire. Improvisations (often available later as sheet music transcriptions) and variations on Psalm tunes (the Geneva Psalms) are a substantial part of any Dutch recitalist's repertoire. Some are very clearly developments of JSB's methods, and others verge on theatre organ style.


Many can be heard on the 24-hour 365-day website http://www.musicareligiosa.nl/defaultOrgel.aspx


Look out especially for Jan Zwart, Feike Asma (remarkable perhaps for the variety of his work in this area), John Propitius and many others, according to your taste.


If you would like more details, then PM me.

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Canadian composer Denis Bedard has written a set of 4 psalm based pieces - the RSCM deals with his music over here. They are however based on Geneva psalm tunes so maybe not what you want. Easy to play and quite effective however!



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Here’s a few


Grace, Harvey – Three Psalm-Tune Postludes

Harwood, Basil – Two Preludes on old English Psalm Tunes, Op. 52

Howells, Herbert – Psalm Preludes, two sets of three

Kee, Cor - Inleidingen tot de Psalmen (contains 20 preludes)

Leighton, Kenneth – Martyrs, Op. 73 (duet)

Maxwell Davies, Peter – first of ‘Three Organ Voluntaries’ is titled Psalm 124

Milner, Arthur – Meditation on Psalm 21

Milner, Arthur – Two Meditations on Psalms

Reubke, Julius – Sonata on Psalm 94

Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon – Psalms 116 and 140

Whitlock, Percy – Seven Sketches on Verses from the Psalms

Wood, Charles – Sixteen Preludes on Melodies from the English and Scottish Psalters

Wood, Charles – Three Preludes on Melodies from the Genevan Psalter

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The Dutch composer Van Noordt left several pieces founded on Calvinist psalm melodies



Peter Maxwell Davies' Three Voluntaries are all founded on psalm tunes. I gave the official premiere of these at a St. Magnus Festival way-back-when, but I never really took to them....


Purcell's (or possibly not) Voluntary on the Old Hundredth is worth a whirl. In its original version, it's a French basse de trompette, recit de cornet (there was a memorable recording of it at Adlington Hall, and I remember playing it on Couperin's organ at St-Gervais, Paris). The souped-up romantic arrangement a la Thalben Ball works well if you have that sort of instrument.

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