Posts Tagged 'Featured Recording'



Psalm 25: The Paths of the Lord

This month marks nine years (!) since my first attempts as an over-eager teenager to spark some discussions about the Psalms and church music on this blog. The Lord has ordained a series of events that have shaped my life into something much different than I could have imagined nine years ago. And that’s true on a global scale as well; could you have imagined nine years ago that we would be where we are today, politically and socially?

Certainly we are living at some kind of a crossroads in the history of the West, although it is not yet clear exactly what that crossroads may be. Crossroads can be places of great anxiety. In the past existential crises of my little life, I have often turned to the words of Psalm 25 for comfort. I’ve even written about Psalm 25 before on this site. Recently, Psalm 25 popped back into my head, this time through a particularly tranquil setting of the Genevan tune arranged by Dutch organist Willem Hendrik Zwart. Earlier this week I recorded this fantasy on a beautiful new pipe organ in Sayville, not far from the West Sayville URC.

Psalm 25 is a song about the paths of the Lord. Mercifully, it promises that he “instructs sinners in the way” (v. 8 ESV). Past failures and mistakes cannot separate the children of God from loving counsel and admonition in the way of Christ. “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness” (v. 10). Although we look at the world and the church and see great calamities and distress, we also look to a covenant-keeping God who will never change, and because he will never change, we will not be consumed. So the psalm concludes with a prayer of faith: “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles” (v. 22).

The Trinity Psalter Hymnal includes a Genevan setting of Psalm 25 in its Selection A, “LORD, to You My Soul Is Lifted.” An earlier translation can be found in the blue Psalter Hymnal, number 43. As you listen, reflect on the words of Psalm 25, either from one of these psalters or from the Scriptures, and allow the comfort and wise counsel of the Lord to point the way forward for you into 2021.

–MRK

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

Announcing “Psalms for the King” Giveaway

2014 Genevans CD Insert COVER frontOne of the most common questions I receive on this blog is from readers looking for good recordings of the psalms. The list of psalm-singing recordings available on the web is already quite large, including some enjoyable (though outdated) recordings of the blue Psalter Hymnal and entire websites devoted to Scottish metrical psalmody. Today I’m happy to announce a wonderful addition to that list with the online release of one of my favorite CD’s, Psalms for the King.

Psalms for the King was recorded by my college choir, The Genevans, during the season that included a three-week international tour in the Philippines and Malaysia (you can read about that tour here). A freshman at the time, I got to sing all of these pieces as well as accompany a solo psalm setting on the organ (Track 14, “The Lord is my Shepherd”).

With the exception of the organ piece, Psalms for the King is entirely a cappella. That’s not for principled reasons as much as for practical ones: when you’re visiting concert locations that require piling into jeepneys and hiking through jungles, you can’t always guarantee there will be a piano or organ at your destination. But if you thought a cappella singing represents a single musical style, think again. Psalms for the King bridges the worlds of congregational psalmody and sacred classical music, with everything from Bruckner’s spine-tingling Os justi (Psalm 37:30-31) to a jazzy version of Psalm 118 arranged for men’s chorus by our director.

A lot of college choirs choose repertoire that shows off their technical skills. And The Genevans certainly have the chops for difficult music, including Mendelssohn’s motet on Psalm 2 and a choral fugue on Psalm 150 by J.S. Bach. But when the choir sings simple tunes, they do so just as beautifully. Despite my appreciation for intricate choral counterpoint, some of my favorite tracks are the traditional CRIMOND setting of Psalm 23 and a setting of Psalm 16 by Dr. Bob Copeland.

A drawback of this recording is that a few selections are sung in different languages, so a casual listener might not immediately benefit from those particular psalm texts without consulting the liner notes. However, the second half of the disc more than compensates for this shortcoming. Overall Psalms for the King remains one of my favorite psalm albums to listen to—not just because of my emotional attachment to the choir, but because it captures some of the best of psalm-singing from a wide variety of times and places. Below is a sample track from the album, a new setting of Psalm 130 by Geneva College professor Dr. Byron Curtis.

Psalms for the King was released in early 2015, but the album wasn’t available online until very recently. Crown & Covenant, the publishing house of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, has just begun selling the CD’s on their website for $15.

Even better, I’ve obtained permission to hold a contest for a free copy of Psalms for the King on CD (the first of its kind on URC Psalmody!). Simply submit your information here, and the sixth person (in the US or Canada) to contact me will receive a free copy. I’ll even cover the postage!

Even if you don’t win the contest, consider getting yourself a copy of Psalms for the King. It will bring joy to your ears and your soul.

–MRK

Buy Psalms for the King (C&C) »

Enter the giveaway contest »

Trinity Sings!

Even when blog posts have been sparse, URC Psalmody’s YouTube channel has been growing slowly but steadily over the past year.  In the next few weeks, however, it looks as though it will grow much more substantially.

Trinity Orthodox Reformed Church

Trinity Orthodox Reformed Church, 2003

In February of 2013 a member of Adoration URC in Vineland, ON, contacted me about an album of congregational singing Trinity Orthodox Reformed Church (URCNA) in nearby St. Catharines had produced in 2003.  Having recently digitized Trinity’s 1989 album Songs of Praise, I was eager to obtain more recordings of this church’s energetic singing.

This blog reader managed to get a copy of this two-CD album from relatives and kindly mailed it to me.  In spite of both discs being heavily scratched, I was able to salvage all of the tracks with minimal audio problems.  Trinity Sings! includes a whopping forty-three congregational songs from the blue Psalter Hymnal, with Len Van Geest playing the organ and coordinating the recording.  This was a rare find!

The next step was to obtain permission from Trinity ORC to post these recordings online, a query I didn’t get around to sending until January of this year.  Trinity’s council quickly assented to this request.  With the second semester of my first year of college already underway, however, I simply didn’t have the time needed to produce and upload all the YouTube videos involved in this undertaking.

Featured RecordingThankfully, with this July comes the chance to breathe a little bit and bring this project to completion.  I’d like to upload at least the best selections from Trinity Sings! over the next few weeks, particularly the Psalter Hymnal songs for which URC Psalmody doesn’t already have recordings.  Below is a sample video which I’ve already uploaded.

[youtube http://youtu.be/He5CfbrpNj0]

In other news, I’ve begun a new YouTube playlist which I hope to fill with psalm settings that appear in the recently-approved URCNA/OPC Psalm Proposal (to avoid the possibility of copyright infringement, only those settings which already appear in a published songbook).  As our congregations and musicians look forward to the release of the new Psalter Hymnal as early as 2017, we would do well to familiarize ourselves with as many of the “new” texts and tunes as possible.  The playlist is available here.

Thanks again for your patience, and for keeping up with URC Psalmody!

–MRK


URC Psalmody on YouTube

Geneva College Benefit Concert

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