Psalm 36.
Dixit injustus

Plainchant setting

The recording below is based on the Sarum Psalm tones as presented in the St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter. It is chanted to Tone II 1.

Anglican chant setting by William Crotch (1775–1847) and William Marsh (1757–1818)

Because the mood of this Psalm changes dramatically at verse 5, it is common for choirs to use two different chant settings, the first in a minor key, the second in a major key. In the recording below, the first four verses are sung to a chant by William Crotch, a noted composer associated with Oxford University and the Royal Academy of Music. The second setting — from verse 5 through the end of the Psalm — is by William Marsh, about whom little is known. The singers are the Salisbury Cathedral Choir directed by David Halls. The organist is David Cook.

Anglican chant setting by J. Stafford Smith (1750–1836)

Church organist, composer, and musicologist J. Stafford Smith’s best-known composition is a song he wrote for The Anacreontic Society. This private social club, named after the Greek poet Anacreon (Samuel Johnson was one of the group’s most famous members), met once a month for a fine dinner and after-dinner singing and conversation. Smith wrote the tune for a merry song which club members sang ritualistically and enthusiastically after each well-appointed meal.

That tune made its way across the Atlantic, and was already quite popular in various drinking establishments when, in 1814, it was appropriated by an American lawyer and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key to accompany his poem called “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” We know this tune as our National Anthem.

As a church organist, Smith regularly accompanied the singing of Psalms set to Anglican chant. Below is Psalm 36 sung to one of his own chant settings. The singers are the Ely Cathedral Choir, conducted by Paul Trepte with David Price at the organ.