In the series "Songs of Ascent" is here the next Psalm 128, played from Marco den Toom's psalm book. Earlier I played it on the StahlHuth/Jann organ, but this series I dedicate to the Bätz organ of the Domkerk.
A Strange Title
In the Book of Psalms, each song has an individual heading. Some headings are actually the name of the author, such as in “A Psalm of Asaph” (Psalm 50). Others begin with musical instructions, for example “For the Leader; with string-music. A Psalm, a Song” (Psalm 67). But then we come to a distinct group of 15 psalms (numbers 120-134) that all open with the title “A Song of Ascents.” What does this mean?
Melodies for the Road
In the original Hebrew this is Shir Ha-Ma’alot. There are two theories about the meaning of the term ma’alot (מעלות) or “ascents.” The first is that this refers to the ascent – both topographical and spiritual – to Jerusalem, which thousands of Jewish pilgrims made on the festivals in the days of the Temple. The travelers sang these songs on the walk up the steep roads leading to the Holy City to make the journey easier.
Ascend with Biblical Hebrew
A second theory is that the word ma’alot refers to the “steps” ascending to the Temple (Ezek. 40:6). The Levites, whose job it was to provide musical accompaniment to the priestly sacrifices, would sing these 15 psalms as they walked up the 15 steps to the sacred House of the Lord.