Let me tell you the history of Psalm 40. Well, not the complete history; that stretches back a few millennia. But I can tell you the history of my musical rendition of Psalm 40; that only goes back two decades. I wrote the song in 1998 and made a demo of it around that time. In 2012, while working with the Choral Scholars on Cry Out to God!, we recorded the song using a new SATB and piano arrangement. In 2017, I entered the song in the Church of the Servant New Psalm Contest; lo and behold, it won! For the premiere, I wrote an arrangement for SATB Choir, Congregation, Piano, Flute, Violin, Accordion, and Flugelbone. (Yes, flugelbone. It’s like a flugelhorn, but in trombone range.) Here’s what I wrote about it for the January 28, 2018 premiere:
You may think that U2 has the corner on the Psalm 40 song market, but I would humbly suggest that there’s room for one more.
I wrote “Patiently” while I was working at a church in Tallahassee. Frankly, it was something of a desert experience for me. Psalm 40 expressed well both my complaints and hope. I love how the Psalm ties together proclamations of God’s good deeds, prayers for salvation, confession of sin, and even a prayer that God would shame the Psalmist’s enemies.
Bible study usually leads to music for me, so I began working on an idea for a song based on the Psalm. It was the first time I had tried to set a whole Psalm to music. At the time I didn’t know much about metrical and responsorial psalmody, I just knew that I liked how the music fit each verse and that it sounded good when the chorus kept coming back. Even though this song is not likely to make its way to the top of the CCLI charts, I was pleased that the contest judges felt it was a faithful and helpful musical rendering of the scripture.
I have a fond memory of a difficult afternoon on which I took a long walk through the hot Florida woods with this song keeping me company. I hope you find it returning to your mind, as well.
You can listen above to the MP3 of the Church of the Servant musicians leading “Patiently.” Check out the revised leadsheet here. If you want the congregational piano part or the full choral arrangement, just email me. There’s got to be some church out there with a flugelbone! (Okay, it can also be played by trombone.)