You never know what’s going to happen when you spend time with Greg Scheer. You might spend the day tracking down the perfect spot for a pint (he loves this place), playing a couple rounds of ping pong, or geeking out over some obscure hymns (he helped found the hymnary.org).
Last month I spent a few hours with Greg over at his regular haunt, Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, MI. We chatted about life, ministry, music, and the wonder of project work. In casual conversation he mentioned that he is going to try and tackle writing music to all 150 psalms. To be fair he has quite a head start. Afterwards as I was mulling over our conversation and a quote I saw recently (from David Taylor I think) I decided that I need to more seriously consider my commitment to singing through the psalms. I love that in the early church pastors had to memorize the entire psalter as a condition for ordination (reference?). The heart of this project will be to encourage worship leaders and songwriters to wrestle with the texts of the psalms.
To that glorious end I’ve decided to start a new long term curation project. I will work these like the Cardiphonia compilations and release a select number of psalms each year in the summer months when it’s usually a bit quieter around here. Over the next 5-10 years I hope to provide 5 albums of psalms that cover the five books of the psalter and hopefully provide the church with a wealth of resources for exploring ways to sing the psalms. Like most of our compilations various songs will fit and speak to a diversity of contexts. We’ve got to have a #hastag so we will call the project #150in5. If you tag your songs on soundcloud/twitter and provide a link to a chart then I’ll be able to track it down. No promise we’ll use your song but it will be out there for all to enjoy! I’ve already registered psalms.bandcamp.com if you think you can keep a bookmark for that long!
Book V is largely covered in the Hallel Psalms and Psalms of Ascents projects so we’ve got some wriggle room if it takes us a little longer on the first couple.
If you write a song every two weeks then you should be able to cover the entire psalter in five years. That shouldn’t be too difficult. This IS a long-term project. And that’s ok. I think we need to be willing to take our time and think in terms of how churches/organizations often make long term plans. In 5-10-15-20 year projections. This project will, God willing, only take 5-10 years. What sort of projects should we be considering that might take us 20 years?
Here are other people and projects working on covering large chunks of the psalms.
Psalms for All Seasons (New Hymnal from the RCA/CRC)
The Psalm Projekt (Dutch Contemporary Composers)
The PrayerBook Project (longterm project from Brian Moss)
Robbie Seay Band – The Psalms
Matt Searles – Various psalms from british worship leader
Sons of Korah – Australian group
Indelible Grace – link to their psalm settings
You can also find a good list of psalter-hymnals HERE.