Posts Tagged 'Resources'

Trinity Psalter Hymnal Recordings

Eenige Gezangen

Today I’ve collected a list of YouTube videos to go along with the portion of the psalm section of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal that is in the public domain or administered by the OPC/URCNA Joint Venture. All in all, there are about 60 videos, between a fifth and a quarter of the total psalm selections in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. Hopefully this number will grow as time goes on.

Thanks to the gracious permission of our friends at Hymnary.org, I have adapted a table of contents from their online documentation of the songbook, which already includes many psalm and hymn texts and page scans. Now the table links to texts, page scans, and videos when available. You can view the finished product here.

These links can help pastors, musicians, and church members in several ways, particularly during this season of livestreaming services.

  • The page scans make it easy to dive into the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. It is almost effortless to pull them up on a phone, tablet, or computer, as well as to integrate them into a conferencing platform (depending on your church’s livestream setup). Of course, only a portion of the book’s contents are available this way, and you should really buy a complete digital PDF edition of the songbook if you or your church are planning on using it in electronic format long-term.
  • Even when a particular page scan isn’t available because of a copyrighted tune, you can still often read the complete lyrics. This means members can sing along to many selections without needing to have their own copies of the hymnal handy. Of course, it would be ideal if churches could loan their pew editions of the songbook to families until they are able to hold corporate worship services again, but quarantine restrictions in some areas might have already made this a logistical nightmare.
  • Choosing videos to include wasn’t easy, but I searched long and hard for recordings that would be easy to sing along with. Some are a cappella, some with voices and instruments, some with instruments alone. The musical styles vary. For some, the quality is pretty shabby. But I looked for recordings that provided a simple, effective rendition of the psalm setting that will be easy for musical and non-musical members alike to follow.
  • Both during and after this season of uncertainty, pastors and musicians can use the video links to become familiar with the tunes of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal in order to make the most fitting choices for worship services.

Will I be able to add videos for the hymn section next? I’d like to. But no promises.

That’s all for now–please feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.

–MRK

Resources for Remote Worship

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created numerous challenges for churches in many countries where public gatherings are now temporarily forbidden. As church leaders wrestle through questions of live-streaming services, singing is a major question. To my knowledge, no free streaming platform can deliver the synchronization needed for a group of church members to sing digitally together.

So, at this point, many of us are settling for second-best options. One of these is simply for the pastor to lead the singing as part of the livestream, if he has a strong singing voice. Another option is to gather a small slice of the congregation in person to provide the music for the livestream, which other members can follow along with from their own homes. Still another option is to leave singing out of the livestream entirely and to encourage families to sing together in a separate time of household worship before or after the service.

There are plenty of online resources that can assist with some aspects of planning music during this time of upheaval and confusion. For the sake of time, I will only mention two right now; I will gather more resources as I have the opportunity.

  1. The publishers of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal have announced temporary permission for churches that already own the songbook to use any of its music that is under the public domain or copyrighted by the OPC and URCNA in livestreamed services until May 11, 2020. At this point I am not clear on whether this includes digitally reproducing the sheet music for these songs, or merely for streaming a recording of them.
  2. The website Hymnary.org, the most comprehensive index of hymns and hymnals available to my knowledge, includes a vast array of free resources including sheet music and sometimes audio recordings. Page scans of all public domain songs and OPC/URCNA copyrighted songs from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal can be viewed for free on this website. A more limited set of resources is also available for the 1959/1976 CRC Psalter Hymnal (blue).

Worship leaders may also find some of the archives of URC Psalmody useful during this time. In particular, our YouTube channel includes playlists with many recordings of the songs in the blue Psalter Hymnal. (Unfortunately, there is no such resource yet available for the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.) Many of these recordings were created by congregations and choirs and are thus easy to sing along with. Some of the recordings even have lyrics integrated into the video.

The West Sayville URC has asked me to provide a list of songs available online to suggest for family worship tomorrow, and I am including them here in case they are helpful to other churches as well. Depending on how the next days and weeks play out, I may continue to post suggestions for singable family worship music here for future Sundays.

(The numbers are coordinated with the Trinity Psalter Hymnal for those who have personal copies of the songbook.)

148b. Hallelujah, praise Jehovah
Lyrics and music: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TPH2018/148B
Recording with lyrics: https://youtu.be/g4_i-6QPjZ0

415. We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing
Lyrics and music: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TPH2018/page/678
Recording (lyrics for v. 1 only): https://youtu.be/l6gAE_ODosM

476. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
Lyrics and music: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TPH2018/page/745
Recording (no lyrics): https://youtu.be/_jonnV9j4-c

245. Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
Lyrics and music: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TPH2018/245
Recording (no lyrics): https://youtu.be/zuMIDDNK2b0

I am sure we all look forward to worshiping with one another in flesh and blood as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so. May God get the glory during this time of change and uncertainty.

–MRK

Another Look at Liturgy

Today, Mere Orthodoxy ran an article by an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor which laments the loss of liturgy in Reformed churches in the West. The author, Cameron Shaffer, discusses the bankruptcy of a megachurch mentality that states, “Get rid of the psalms . . . and the world will come”–reinventing worship to attract the next generation to the church, with no thought given to what will keep them there.

I’m currently reading Reformed novelist Douglas Bond’s newest book–this one nonfiction–entitled God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To). Again and again, Bond calls for the Reformed church to return to the traditions and aesthetic standards of previous generations. Although he does not necessarily invoke the word “liturgy,” the idea is all over.

The list could go on. The year 2020 may be the beginning of a decade in which Protestants rediscover the value of liturgical awareness–returning not to the ceremonies of Rome but to the historic practices of worship, psalm-singing among them, that have characterized the church since the days of the apostles.

Veteran readers of this blog may remember a summer series several years ago entitled “A Look at Liturgy.” That series represented my first attempts to come to grips with the role of liturgy in the Reformed faith, using a report produced by the Christian Reformed Church in the 1970’s.

A few months ago, I discovered the book I should have used in that study: Abraham Kuyper’s book Our Worship (Eerdmans, 2009). Writing more than a century ago, Kuyper called for a resurrection of “liturgical awareness” in the Dutch churches of his own day, anticipating many of the consequences that an individualistic and consumeristic attitude toward worship would entail.

Time does not permit me to elaborate on Kuyper’s book here, other than to recommend it as an accessible, thorough, and valuable resource for ministers, musicians, and interested members. I will mention, however, that I am working on a six-part series in The Outlook magazine summarizing Kuyper’s book with commentary and study questions. The Outlook is thoughtful and important reading for all members of the United Reformed Churches in North America, and it is well worth a (very affordable) subscription. My introduction to Our Worship will appear in the January/February 2020 issue.

May what Kuyper called “liturgical awareness” contribute to a new flourishing of Reformed doctrine and life in this third decade of the twenty-first century.

–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 »

Sing Gently

Gentle ReformationA few months ago, Christian blogger Tim Challies listed Gentle Reformation, one of the only blogs I can even claim to regularly read, as one of his favorite blogs of 2016. It was a moment in the spotlight for the gracious authors of an ordinary and rather humble website, something they compared to winning the cyber version of an Oscar or an Emmy.

On one hand, I try not to put too much stock in online announcements like this. In the blogosphere, we can easily slip into our own imaginative reality in which a “like” and a “share” are equivalent to a laudatory review in the New York Times. But on the other hand, I think the authors of Gentle Reformation are on to something, and I’m glad a widely-read blogger publicly thanked them for it.

Gentle Reformation’s “About” page expresses three goals: to be persuasive rather than polemical, to be pastoral rather than pejorative, and to consider people in the pews rather than just professors and pastors. In other words, the blog exists because its authors recognize and seek to respond to several pitfalls that are especially prevalent in the Reformed and Presbyterian faith.

The first pitfall is the temptation of pride. Hard as it is to admit, we Reformed folk have the habit of turning the “only comfort in life and in death” of the Heidelberg Catechism into a surly self-confidence that shifts the attention from the finished work of Christ back to ourselves. How ironic that our Calvinistic theology that magnifies the grace of God can be turned to boost our own egos instead! Aware of this pitfall, the authors of Gentle Reformation have revealed a consistently humble and winsome tone in their writing.

Another temptation is to call out the bad without pointing instead to the good. In his recent book The Happy Christian, Free Reformed minister David Murray notes excessive negativity as a besetting problem for Christians as well as for our culture at large. Reading Gentle Reformation is refreshing because its dominant theme is one of encouragement rather than criticism.

Finally, bloggers—including Christian bloggers—often fall into patterns of technical jargon or lofty language that alienate readers. In the case of Reformed sites, the terms may include “neo-Kuyperianism” or Latin phrases from the Apostles’ Creed (and there is a place for such discussions), but the effects on readers are often the same. From what I have seen, Gentle Reformation consciously avoids this kind of jargon, instead creating articles that Christians in all walks of life can enjoy reading.

I feel the implications of these pitfalls pretty strongly with regard to psalm-singing as well. It is easy to lapse into discussions about short meter and formal-equivalence-versus-functional-equivalence that would leave many readers reeling. It is easy to lament the losses church music has suffered in the 21st century without suggesting gracious, practical, and positive ways to generate more enthusiasm for the psalms. And it is especially easy to look down on those who have a supposedly “less developed” understanding of worship.

Gentle Reformation serves as an inspiration for me as a fellow blogger to address these pitfalls more intentionally. More broadly, I think its example ought to challenge all of us in our everyday conversations, particularly with regard to psalm-singing. I’ve heard many arguments for the psalms that take the low road of dogmatism and condescension rather than the high road of gentle persuasion with brotherly love. That’s part of the reason URC Psalmody has never taken a position on exclusive psalmody or a cappella singing. Our point is to encourage readers to sing the psalms more, not to engender strife about hymns and instruments.

The example set by Geneva College also comes to my mind. Geneva holds to the practice of singing psalms exclusively and a cappella in chapel. And as the denominational college of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Geneva could easily define itself as the pro-psalm-and-anti-hymn-and-praise-chorus Christian college, with some powerful Scriptural and historical arguments to back it up. But that’s not at all the approach I’ve seen. Rather, I’ve seen the college gently disciple its students and professors in the practice of psalm-singing, week after week, year after year. Although many students won’t be won over by the time they graduate, I know many others who affirm that they developed a new and genuine love for the psalms thanks to Geneva. (You’ll hear from one of them later this week.)

I suppose the point of this post is merely to ponder out loud what a “Gentle Reformation” approach to psalm-singing might look like. I’m happy to hear your thoughts. I do know that these examples and many others remind us to emulate the chief example of our Savior, whose every word was full of grace and truth.

–MRK


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