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Special psalm composed for a friend

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Father Christopher Willcock SJ composed a new psalm setting for the installation of his friend, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan.

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Fr Willcock said his friendship with the new Archbishop went back a number of years, prompting him to undertake the task of composing a new psalm setting for him.

“The installation of a new chief shepherd in a diocese is an important event,” he said.

“I am honoured, therefore, to have the opportunity of participating in this way at the outset of Archbishop’s O’Regan’s care of the church in Adelaide.”

He said he chose Psalm 41/42 (Like a deer) for the installation because the “strong image of the soul’s yearning for God like a deer searching for a stream of water was an apt image of the Christian’s search for Jesus who offers ‘living water’ (Jn4:10)”.

“A more mundane reason for choosing the psalm is that it is one that I have never before set to music, a surprise to me given the psalm’s popularity and frequency of occurrence,” he explained.

Since the 1970s, setting psalms to music has been an “ever-present thread” in Fr Willcock’s life as a composer. “Mostly, I’ve composed a psalm setting in response to a request from either an individual or a group needing it for a particular occasion,” he said.

“Less frequently I have composed them from an inner urge. This was the case with my collection Psalms for Feasts and Seasons, settings of the Common Responsorial Psalms contained in the Lectionary.

“The third motive is to offer a setting to an individual or a group in recognition of an important event they will be celebrating, or simply as a thank-you to them.”

The psalm was sung by cantor Naomi Hede, of Brighton parish, who was part of a combined choir conducted by Cathedral music director Timothy Davey.

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