The Old Song of New Song

New Song at West Sayville URC

New Song at West Sayville URC

Sing out your praises unto God,
O kingdoms of the earth,
And sing unto the Lord of all
In praise of His great worth.

Just a few months after participating in a three-week international psalm-singing choir tour in southeast Asia, I had the privilege of experiencing a small slice of another vocal tour when Geneva College’s ensemble New Song gave a concert at my home church this past weekend.

New Song’s program describes their mission:

Through music and drama, the timeless words of the Gospel are conveyed in a contemporary and dynamic way.  Passionate, stirring, convicting, the words of the psalms, as well as the whole of Scripture, are just as fresh and compelling as when they were penned thousands of years ago.

New Song, now in its 38th year, has always featured a cappella singing of the psalms.  Psalm singing is one of the distinctive features of the worship of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.  While uncommon in today’s churches, psalm singing was the historic practice for most Presbyterian, Reformed, Baptist and Congregational churches for many generations.  New Song’s psalm selections attempt to show the wide range of emotion and praise found in the psalms.

Although only one vocalist in New Song is a member of the RPCNA (and another describes himself as “an RP in training”), talk to any of these singers and you will discover a heartfelt appreciation for the beauty of psalm-singing, a love that emerges in their performances.  During Saturday’s concert at West Sayville Reformed Bible Church, they performed psalms in styles as diverse as a Beethoven melody for the exuberant conclusion of Psalm 68 and an African-American spiritual for the plaintive prayer of Psalm 13.  The psalms portion of their program was entirely a cappella, except for the addition of djembe to Psalm 72.  I particularly loved their rendition of Psalm 16:

Keep me, O God; I trust in Thee, Jehovah; I confess
Thou art my Lord; apart from Thee no good do I possess.
The Lord’s the portion of my cup and my inheritance;
Thou hast maintained my perfect lot, secured to me Thy grants.

New Song doesn’t limit their repertoire to the psalms, however.  They concluded their concert with a number of hymns and contemporary choruses reflecting the redemptive themes of Scripture.  My personal favorite was their performance of James Ward’s new tune for “Rock of Ages”; few people know that he composed this now-famous tune specifically for this vocal group.

Not much seems “new” about a group that tours North America singing psalms a cappella.  Contemporary Christian culture—and certainly the rest of the world—has moved on.  But through their humble and beautiful music, the young people of New Song demonstrate that the psalms and themes of Scripture have enduring value.  More than that, they continue to proclaim God’s message of reconciliation to the world, a message that culminates in that Day when all things will be made new.

Before heading to bed on Saturday night, the men of New Song and I sat around the kitchen table and sang the words of Psalm 42 from Psalter Hymnal 75.  It was a wonderful way to conclude a memorable visit.

As thirsts the hart for water brooks,
So longs my soul, O God, for Thee;
It seeks for God, and ever looks
And longs the living God to see,
And longs the living God to see.



New Song will continue their tour in the United States and Canada through August 1; check their itinerary to see if they’ll be at a venue near you.

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1 Response to “The Old Song of New Song”

  1. 1 Mindy July 19, 2014 at 11:39 am


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