The SHIYR Poets
What happens when you lose your words?
The years 2010-2012 were like a long dark hallway for Brian Doerksen, writer of modern worship classics like “Come, Now is the Time to Worship” and “Refiner’s Fire.” He was going through a dark night of the soul; a crisis of faith and belief. The words of the ancient Psalms were waiting as they have for millennia, and Brian along with close friends Brian Thiessen, Teresa Trask and Calum Rees decided to let the words of the Psalms be their words.
The songs of The SHIYR Poets (pronounced “Sheer” not “Shire”) are the result. Words of sadness sung over minor chords, dark and at times dissonant. Words of anger admitted and expunged with forceful energy. Words of trust in the Ancient of Days sung with fragile tenderness and honesty.
The music of The SHIYR Poets is pure modern folk-rock; their settings of the Psalms layered with rich vocal harmonies and rhythms. And because they like living on the artistic edge and are fascinated by the ancient poets and songwriters, they’ve also created a few new songs based on song fragments discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Together this group of life-long friends lead us on a journey through the terrain of human emotion expressing the deep spiritual longing within all of us.
Unlike anything else ever written, the ancient Psalms express the human longing for God with poetic artistry and emotional force. They release the voice of praise and resonate with the universal cry of pain.
Most modern Bibles focus Psalms translation on theological accuracy. However, the Hebrew poetry focused not just on the meaning of the words, but also on their sound. Designed to be sung rather than read the goal of the SHIYR Poets is to render the Psalms as sung English poetry.
Using all the translations available (including Robert Alter’s more poetic translation) and seeking counsel from Hebrew scholars, the SHIYR Poets are paraphrasing the Psalms and setting them to modern folk-rock tunes.
Choosing not to censor the difficult verses of lament and anger, the SHIYR Poets render each psalm in its entirety, singing in solidarity with all who suffer. The result is raw yet meditative music, at times unconventional in its form, yet deeply comforting because every generation has prayed and pondered the words of these Psalms.
Taken as a whole, the Psalms are perhaps the most emotionally healthy comprehensive expression of spirituality ever written. These are songs of desire and desperation…songs that demand justice for the oppressed…songs that honour the innocent praise of children…songs about everyday things like sleep.
The SHIYR Poets are beginning with a commitment to create a setting of the first 25 Psalms from the book of Psalms in sequence, with the hope of continuing the journey through the Psalter.