Sing a New Psalm: A Story of Cross-Country Composition
3/14/99 After LOFT
As usual, after worship was finished and most folks had cleared out of the chapel, the band kept on play-ing. We spent nearly ninety minutes "jamming for Jesus." Matt and the Aarons really got us going on that Herbie Hancock number "Chameleon." It's amazing how much music you can make with just two simple chords. And how much variety!
We swapped solos, of course, but more importantly, we swapped leadership. Without saying anything. For a while Genzink would take us where he wanted to go. He'd dictate style, tempo, intensity. Then Antoon would take over and head in another direction and we'd follow him. Then Matt, then me. ... It was less about finger fun; it was ear exercise. Makes me think the band could use ten minutes of this song when we're at musical loggerheads, Learning really to listen to each other ...
"Chameleon"—not a listening exercise. Well, OK, a listening exercise. But the whole song changed last night for me (what a fitting title!). LOFT was so great (Easter Sunday!), and we stayed after to jam— but given the spirit (Spirit?) in which we were playing it, it became something new. A new song. A song of praise. A new psalm—of the "all creation's doing it, so grab whatever is at hand and give it up for God" type. I started hearing in my head a chorus—a rudimentary melody to go over the changes, and a harmony a third up. Got home and immediately scratched out a paraphrase of Psalm 150. We've been looking for new settings of the psalms. The band already likes this. Could we manage it fairly soon?
To do: Tweak lyrics. Write out melody and harmony for vocalists. Present song to Aaron for feedback.
Had a meeting with Gregg (DcMey, cofounder of LOFT, now in music ministry at Granite Springs Christian Reformed Church, Rocklin, California). After mutual ministry updates we began to swap ideas, insights, and new worship songs. He gave us some good stuff. 1 didn't have much to give him he hadn't already heard—except our homemade setting of Psalm 150. It doesn't feel all that "new" to me, since we've been using it for a year already. But maybe he can do something with it. It would be nice if some music moved in the other direction, since he's written and given us so much over the years.
Talked to Gregg again today. Our semi-annual music/worship idea swap. I was surprised (and pleased) to hear that his band has really adopted that setting of Psalm 150. Gregg sheepishly admits that he didn't leave it alone, though. He's changed the key, dropped the purloined bass riff, tweaked the melody and lyrics. If his changes are anything like the changes he made to "Benediction" (Sing! A New Creation 288), it will only be an improvement. Can't wait to hear it!
To do: Get recording of Psalm 150—GDM version.
Gregg De Mey and Greg Kett (another founder of LOFT, a guitarist, and currently a pastor at River Terrace Christian Reformed Church, Hast Lansing, Michigan) came back to LOFT tonight. We decided to pull out Gregg's version of Psalm 150.1 was nervous that "our" version and "their" version wouldn't mesh—but of course, they did. And it fit perfectly into the service. The theme—friendship in Christ—was reflected and embodied as we joined in a common task: giving exuberant praise to God. Starting with just Greg and Gregg, and then other instruments and singers joining in expanding circles of praise.
The best part was the freedom folks seemed to have in their singing, especially on the stanza where we were just "jamming." The congregation followed the vocalists' lead, who followed the band, who were following Gregg, who was following the Spirit. There was a spontaneity there that's so hard to find sometimes (it's not for nothing we're called the "frozen chosen")—but which we need so desperately. A freedom that seems exactly right for that psalm. Praise the Lord, all the earth!
A Psalm of Celebration: Psalm 150
Praise the Lord, you people.
Praise the Lord, all the earth.
Praise the Lord, you people.
Praise the Lord, all the earth. Repeat Refrain
1 Praise the Lord in this place.
Praise him up beyond the skies,
Praise the Lord for acts of power.
Praise the greatness of his might. Refrain
2 Praise the Lord with horns resounding.
Praise him with guitar and strings.
Praise the Lord with joyful dancing.
Praise him with electric things.
3 Praise the Lord with crashing cymbals.
Praise the Lord with the drums.
Praise the Lord, all you people.
Everything with breath, join the song!
Refrain (jam) and Final Refrain
The very simple melody for the refrain can be adapted for each of the stanzas. Simply improvise a new rhythm to match the syllables. The harmony can be similarly adapted. Play at a relaxed, but upbeat: tempo, about 92 bpm. Obviously, the song calls out for a large band—one with guitars, drums, strings, horns, and so on. At the appropriate musical junctures, give each of these 2 to 4 beats of room to solo. For instance, punctuate "crashing cymbals" with crashing cymbals, and let a guitar loose for a measure after "electric things."
The "jam" section can begin with just one vocalist and the piano, and gradually increase in volume and intensity—with expanding circles of praise— until it goes over the top into a reprise of the first statement of the refrain. Play with 7ths and 9ths and more, if you wish.
You can hear a recording of this song as sung by the band led by Gregg De Mcy at www.reformed- worship.org; it is also available at wwwgranite-springs.org/sight_sounds.htm. They have other songs there to listen to as well. Listen to this track and others from the latest Granite Springs album at http://mp3-katalog.dino-online.de/010/User/ 0,4470, g0r0ltOoOi646449,FF.html.