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Propitius: Fantasie over Psalm 42

Here is a treat from the Dutch psalm-singing tradition to brighten the bleakness of a fall marked by crisis and uncertainty. John Propitius’s organ fantasy on the Genevan tune of Psalm 42 offers a wonderful treatment of a classic chorale tune known throughout the Western church. For many years this music was almost impossible to find in North America; it was not until this year that I was actually able to purchase a copy online. Recently I had the privilege of recording this piece on the 1962 Rudolf von Beckerath tracker organ at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh.

The text of the psalm, versified by Dewey Westra in 1931, offers comfort and hope in trying times:

But the Lord will send salvation,
And by day His love provide;
He shall be mine exultation,
And my song at eventide.
On His praise e’en in the night
I will ponder with delight,
And in prayer, transcending distance,
Seek the God of my existence.

O my soul, why art thou grieving;
Why disquieted in me?
Hope in God, thy faith retrieving;
He will still thy refuge be.
I shall yet through all my days
Give to Him my thankful praise;
God, who will from shame deliver,
Is my God, my Rock, forever.

A happy Thanksgiving to our American readers, and may God bless us as we hope in him.

–MRK

Improvisation on Psalm 84

Psalm 84 is a soundtrack of the soul, and Konstantin Zhigulin’s tune for it may be one of the most beautiful contributions to church music in the 21st century.

Russian composer Konstantin Zhigulin leads Psalom, an internationally acclaimed a cappella group singing original compositions on the Psalms and other Scripture passages.

The high point of Zhigulin’s setting, entitled “My God and King” in English, is its refrain: “For the Lord is a sun and a shield, my hope and my song in the night,” a paraphrase of Psalm 84:11. Since its composition in 2006, “My God and King” (first published in Russian) has been translated into English, German, French, Spanish, and Estonian and is used in worship by congregations around the world.

I first encountered Zhigulin’s music at Geneva College, where the college’s a cappella ensembles performed a variety of his psalm settings and paraphrases. Since then, Psalom has made multiple visits to western Pennsylvania, and I hope once travel restrictions are lifted they will return once again.

Here is my organ improvisation on “My God and King,” with thanks to Zhigulin for his significant contributions to the psalmody of the church.

–MRK

The Lord’s Songs in a Strange Land: May 31, 2020

Here are some videos of psalms and hymns for churches and families to consider using in their worship preparations this coming Sunday, May 31 (Pentecost). The numbers correspond to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.

Click t to view the song lyrics, p to view lyrics and music together, and v to play a video recording of the song. The lyrics and music in the recording may not match the Trinity Psalter Hymnal exactly, but they are similar enough that it is possible to sing along.

# Text Tune t p v
65C Praise waits for thee in Zion MENDEBRAS t p v
67B O God, show mercy to us THAXTED t v
96 Sing to the Lord, sing his praise, all you peoples WESLEY (MASON) t p v
100B All people that on earth do dwell GENEVAN 134 (OLD HUNDREDTH) t p v
393 Spirit of God, dwell thou within my heart MORECAMBE t p v
397 Breathe on me, Breath of God TRENTHAM t v

For more resources related to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, see this page.

–MRK

The Lord’s Songs in a Strange Land: May 21/24, 2020

Here are some videos of psalms and hymns for churches and families to consider using in their worship preparations on Ascension Day, May 21, and Sunday, May 24, 2020. The numbers correspond to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.

Click t to view the song lyrics, p to view lyrics and music together, and v to play a video recording of the song. The lyrics and music in the recording may not match the Trinity Psalter Hymnal exactly, but they are similar enough that it is possible to sing along.

Songs for Ascension Day, May 21

# Text Tune t p v
8C Lord, our Lord, thy glorious name EVENING PRAISE t p v
68B O Lord, thou hast ascended MISSIONARY HYMN t p v
110B The LORD has spoken to my Lord ALL SAINTS NEW v
118B The glorious gates of righteousness ZERAH t p v
371 Hail the day that sees him rise Alleluia! LLANFAIR t p v
373 See, the Conqu’ror mounts in triumph REX GLORIAE t p v

Songs for Sunday, May 24

# Text Tune t p v
22D The ends of all the earth shall hear VISION t p v
67A O God, to us show mercy MEIRIONYDD t p v
102B Thou, O Lord, art God alone ST. GEORGE’S WINDSOR t p v
117A Praise Jehovah, all ye nations IN BABILONE t p v
379 Come, Christians, join to sing MADRID t p v
395 O Breath of life, come sweeping through us SPIRITUS VITAE t p v

For more resources related to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, see this page.

–MRK

Interview with Gert van Hoef

gertRecently I had the opportunity to interview 25-year-old Dutch organist Gert van Hoef for Christian Renewal. We covered a wide range of subjects, including the place of the Psalms in corporate worship, the history of the Genevan Psalter in the Netherlands, and advice for aspiring young organists.

I asked Gert what it takes to be a good church musician. His response is worth pondering:

Church organists should always realize that they do not only play for themselves. They are to enjoy themselves, and it is their own worship, but they are also playing for the congregation. The principle is that those with talents are supposed to use them to serve the body. So church musicians are responsible to do their very best to make beautiful music as servants of the church. That was something I had to realize. The music should not be too complex but should reflect the meaning of the text. When I first started, I tried to show people how great I was. This attitude in myself was not good. Fast and glorious passages are sometimes appropriate, but our job is to serve and lift people up and encourage them. Also, they should not play pieces that are too difficult and cause them to make many mistakes. When I’m in the congregation singing, I should not have to think about the organist. I should be able to trust the organist and sing without interruption.

Click here to read the full interview.


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