Posts Tagged 'Trinity Psalter Hymnal'

Psalm 16: Where the Lines Fell to Me

Two reliable signs of a good psalm setting are (1) when it gets picked frequently at church events that include singing and (2) when it makes it into more than one songbook. Both those indicators are certainly present for Don McCrory’s tune for Psalm 16, which originally appeared as 16D in The Book of Psalms for Worship (2009). Since then, this beautiful melody has beecome a standard at church functions across the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and it has also been included as setting 16B in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal (2018), albeit with a slightly different metrical setting.

I ran into Don McCrory while representing Geneva College at the joint synod and general assembly of the United Reformed Churches in North America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 2018. He is a kind gentleman, a member of an OPC in the Grand Rapids area. I took the opportunity to thank him for this tune (STERLING is its name), and his response was humble and earnest: “The Lord gave me that tune, and I’m just thankful it has been a gift to the churches.” Indeed, a gift it has been and continues to be.

Psalm 16 hits home in a number of ways, but a particular way in which it always convicts me is the verse which says, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (v. 6). The psalm invites believers to reflect on God’s providence to them over the course of their lives as they look forward to enjoying his presence someday forever.

What’s even more special is that this particular setting of Psalm 16 is itself part of my beautiful inheritance. If I had not attended Geneva, I might never have known this psalm. Now it is a part of my history and identity, and I share that gift with others who went to the same school and had the same melody implanted in their hearts.

I recorded this improvisation on Don McCrory’s tune STERLING in the empty sanctuary of a recently closed Methodist church in Beaver Falls, now the property of Geneva College. The organ hasn’t been tuned in who knows how long, and it’s not a concert instrument–just a humble little church organ with a warm and beautiful sound. Thanksgiving was on my mind. The lines have fallen in pleasant places. The property that the Lord provides is beautiful.

–MRK

Improvisation on “Lamb, Precious Lamb”

It’s not a psalm today. Instead, it’s a beautiful new contribution to the Trinity Psalter Hymnal by OPC minister Rev. Jonathan Landry Cruse and Presbyterian musician Paul S. Jones, entitled “Lamb, Precious Lamb” (#353). Since I had one more opportunity to practice and record on the magnificent Peragallo organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sayville, I decided to improvise on this meditative and majestic tune.

Rev. Cruse has offered a significant contribution to the tradition of Reformed hymnody with his collection of 25 Hymns of Devotion, composed in collaboration with several modern-day church musicians. “Lamb, Precious Lamb” is one of the finest, as well as one of several that made it into the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. I look forward to Rev. Cruse’s future contributions to the music of the church.

The text of “Lamb, Precious Lamb” explores a variety of facets of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin. The fifth stanza closes with a fitting doxology:

Lamb, worthy Lamb, who reigns for endless days,
Maker, Redeemer, thine be all the praise.
We join the eternal choirs of heaven, great King;
“Glory and honor to the Lamb!” we sing.

–MRK

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

Goodbye to the Pocket Psalter?

In the afterglow of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal’s publication, one of the questions that rolls around every now and then is whether the publishers will ever prepare a pocket-sized version of the new book.

Pocket Psalter HymnalRemember the mini Psalter Hymnals of the CRC? We celebrated them here on URC Psalmody because they testified to a thriving culture of psalm- and hymn-singing—not just in church but also before bed, around the dinner table, or on the road. Even today, you can still get a pocket edition of the 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter from Reformation Heritage Books, and multiple mini editions of the Book of Psalms for Worship are available from Crown & Covenant Publications.

So it’s only natural to hope that the advent of a new psalter-hymnal in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the United Reformed Churches in North America will bring the added blessing of a pocket edition. Sadly, that’s not likely—for at least three logistical reasons.

First of all, the Trinity Psalter Hymnal offers a very large collection of psalms and hymns—about 50% larger than the 1959/1976 “blue” Psalter Hymnal. That means the pages of the regular edition have to be very thin in order to allow it to fit in a pew rack. It’s difficult to imagine making the paper any thinner in a pocket edition without compromising the integrity and readability of the pages.

Here’s a second factor related to readability: The pages of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal are quite full. The songbook’s commitment to thorough versifications of the Psalms and complete hymn texts leads to a lot of small type and a complex, even busy, page layout. Unlike the larger and simpler type of the 1912 Psalter or the 1959/1976 Psalter Hymnal, a pocket edition of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal would require cramming a lot into a small space.

The third reason a pocket Trinity Psalter Hymnal is unlikely is the expense involved in producing a separately-sized edition of the book. Despite the interest that some church members have expressed, the demand for pocket editions probably wouldn’t be high enough to justify the production costs.

For those of us who fondly remember the tradition of pocket Psalter Hymnals, this may sound like a loss. But it’s important to recognize that the idea of a miniature songbook reflects particular attitudes and beliefs toward worship. And it’s possible to honor and maintain those attitudes without needing a pocket-size hymnal in your hands. So how can we use the Trinity Psalter Hymnal the same way that generations of old used their pocket psalters?

  • Pocket psalters emphasized that singing is a personal devotional practice as well as a corporate activity. Consider buying your own copy of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal and keeping it nearby for family worship or for your own devotions.
  • Pocket psalters were often given to kids so they could learn the songs of the church using their very own book. (I own more than one pocket Psalter Hymnal with scratches and scribbles in the end pages!) If you have a personal Trinity Psalter Hymnal, encourage your kids to explore it for themselves. Sure, you may end up with crayon doodles and ripped pages in a once-pristine book, but you’ll be making a far more worthwhile investment in your children’s spiritual nourishment and development.
  • Pocket psalters were a picture of church membership: As we grow up in the family of God, the songs of his people become our songs too. Pastors and elders, consider giving Trinity Psalter Hymnals as profession-of-faith gifts to young adults in your congregation. There are leather-covered, gold-edged gift editions available for such occasions.

How have you incorporated the Trinity Psalter Hymnal into your personal and familial devotional life? What other opportunities are there to honor the devotional commitment that the tradition of pocket psalters represents?

–MRK


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