James Montgomery Boice wrote that “there is no more wonderful portion of Scripture than the Psalms. They are recited, sung, memorized, and cherished by Christians literally around the world . . . they have been used in worship of God more consistently and more frequently than any other portion of the Bible.”
In order to highlight the profound importance and spiritual weight of the Psalms, the Schola Cantorum and Tenth Church Choirs will be sharing a variety of psalm settings for the Spring Choral Worship Service on May 17, 6:15 PM. These works range from the deeply contemplative (Psalm 69 and 130) to the joyful and exultant (Psalm 100 and 150). Four of these settings are newly composed works by living composers; the others were composed by Henry Purcell, Felix Mendelssohn, Christoph Willibald von Gluck, and Cèsar Franck. These anthems, which Thomas Hong and I will conduct, are paired with scripture readings and beloved congregational hymns of the faith.
One of the most striking features of the psalms is their diversity of subject matter, intensity, and emotional perspectives. Some of the psalms are deeply personal and anguished laments; other psalms are full of joy and God-centered praise. There are also psalms that provide instruction and comfort, and perhaps most importantly, psalms that prophesy the coming Savior. Martin Luther wrote, “The Psalter ought to be a dear and beloved book, if only because it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly and so depicts his kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom that we may call it a little Bible…everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake.” As a congregation, it is important for us to be united in worship, expressing our supplication, thanks, and joyful praise to our Almighty God.
Soli Deo Gloria will open with the Schola Cantorum Choir, conducted by Nathaniel D. Fletcher, sharing a setting of Psalm 131 which exhorts us to “now and forever trust the Lord.” This is followed by Nicholas Landrum’s (b. 1987) setting of Psalm 41:10–13, “But Thou, O Lord, Be Merciful unto me.” His setting for organ and choir expresses King David’s request for mercy and subsequent statement of complete confidence in God. The next two selections, Henry Purcell’s (1659–1695) “Hear my prayer, O Lord” and Ke-Chia Chen’s (b. 1977) “My Days are Like a Shadow,” are settings of portions of Psalm 102. This is a prayer of one who is afflicted and overwhelmed, but who cries out to God in hope, confident in his unchanging nature.
The service proper opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809–1847) setting of Psalm 100, sung in the original German. This beautiful composition is a powerful exclamation of praise and thanksgiving for God’s bountiful mercy and goodness. “Save Me, O God” (Psalm 69:1–3, 16) is a messianic psalm, which recounts Christ’s example to us of continuous prayer to God in the midst of intense suffering and despair. I composed this work wanting to show the progression from sorrow and despair to confidence and assurance in God’s goodness and mercy. Christopher Goddard’s (b. 1986) setting of Psalm 66 opens with the same words as Psalm 100, “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands.” This text is set with thrilling and exuberant organ and choral writing. Psalm 130, set by Cristoph Willabald von Gluck (1714–1787), recounts the author’s progression from crying out to the Lord from the depths to exclamation that “with him is plenteous redemption.” This psalm is paired with Luther’s hymn “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee.” Psalm 130 was a favorite of Luther’s and inspired the writing of this deep and profound hymn. The final anthem the Tenth Church Choir will be sharing is a rich and stately setting of Psalm 150 by Cèsar Franck (1822–1890). This psalm is the quintessential psalm of praise, exclaiming, “everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”
Following Dr. Jerry McFarland’s sermon, “A Mirror for Your Soul” (Psalm 25), organist Bryan Anderson will perform “Praise Him with the Organ,” for the evening’s postlude, an original composition of mine inspired by the joyous words of Psalm 150. Please consider joining us for this psalm-centered evening of worshipful music, scripture reading, and preaching.
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