Psalm 125 is one of fifteen "Songs of Ascents" (Psalms 120-134) the Israelites sang as they went up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Recalling the security of Mount Zion as the city surrounded by God's sure protection, the psalmist assures all who trust in the LORD that God will similarly keep them safe.
The author, Michael Morgan, writes: The text is slightly revised from my original setting of Psalm 125 in the Psalter for Christian Worship. The Psalter for Christian Worship (1999; revised, 2010) was written for my congregation at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta as a means of reclaiming the Reformed tradition of singing metrical Psalms in our worship.
The wonderful tune selected for this text is the traditional Hebrew melody, HATIVKAH, as set by American church music composer Hal H. Hopson.
In 1888, Samuel Cohen composed a melody based on a Romanian folk song which “fit Hatikva [a poem by Naftali Herz Imber, a Galician poet who immigrated to Ottoman Palestine] like a glove,” Israeli musicologist Dr. Natan Shahar told The Times of Israel.
Cohen likely adapted his tune from a nostalgic Romanian ditty called “Carul cu boi,” which translates as “Cart with Oxen.” This melody, in turn, was a modification of a 17th century Italian composition by Gasparo Zanetti called “La Mantovana.” (La Mantovana was also modified, a few years before Cohen, by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana in his piece “Die Moldau,” whose central theme bears striking similarity to Hatikva’s melody.)
Variants on La Mantovana’s theme proliferated throughout Eastern Europe at the time, Shahar explained, and its familiarity to Eastern European immigrants helped promulgate Cohen’s melody. It was simple and familiar; new immigrants had only to learn the lyrics.
-Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, “How an unwieldy romantic poem and a Romanian folk song combined to produce ‘Hatikva’, April 16, 2013
Ilan Ben Zion
Michael Morgan (b. 1948) is a church musician, Psalm scholar, and collector of English Bibles and Psalters from Atlanta, Georgia. After almost 40 years, he now serves as Organist Emeritus for Atlanta’s historic Central Presbyterian Church, and as Seminary Musician at Columbia Theological Seminary. He holds degrees from Florida State University and Atlanta University, and did post-graduate study with composer Richard Purvis in San Francisco. He has played recitals, worship services, and master classes across the U. S., and in England, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. He is author of the Psalter for Christian Worship , and a regular contributor in the field of psalmody (most recently to the Reformed collections Psalms for All Seasons and Lift Up Your Hearts, and the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God).
Hal H. Hopson (b. Texas, 1933) is a prolific composer, arranger, clinician, teacher and promoter of congregational song, with more than 1300 published works, especially of hymn and psalm arrangements, choir anthems, and creative ideas for choral and organ music in worship. Born in Texas, with degrees from Baylor University (BA, 1954), and Southern Baptist Seminary (MSM, 1956), he served churches in Nashville, TN, and most recently at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. He has served on national boards of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and the Choristers Guild, and taught numerous workshops at various national conferences. In 2009, a collection of sixty four of his hymn tunes were published in Hymns for Our Time: The Collected Tunes of Hal H. Hopson.