Psalm 40: Patiently (revised, Psalm contest winner)

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.)

Posted in Choir, Church, Congregational Songs, Contests, Live, Psalms | 2 Comments

Glory and Honour (with Graham Kendrick)

A few years ago, I met Graham Kendrick at a CICW event. After living through the March for Jesus and Promise Keepers eras, it was delightful to spend a few hours with the man behind the music and find him to be a humble, thoughtful person.

It was also enlightening to pick his brain about the latest leg of his musical journey. Graham Kendrick ruled contemporary worship music back in the 90s. You couldn’t go to church without hearing songs like “Shine, Jesus, Shine” or “Knowing You.” I’m always interested to hear about artists’ lives after the dust of their early success has settled. It turns out that Graham is still leading worship and writing songs, and has also become a mentor and teacher to many of today’s worship leaders.

A few weeks after meeting him, I thought, “I’d like to write some music with this guy.” He graciously accepted my offer and we got to work on a song that became “Glory and Honour.” After a few years of Skype calls, long breaks (we’re both far too busy), and a recording lost in a computer crash, I’m pleased to present Graham and Greg’s “Glory and Honour.” (If you want the leadsheet, you’re going to have to sign up for my email list!

1. Eternal God,
we give you praise.
Creator of all things,
Ancient of Days,
your Word is sure,
your truth unchanged;
from long before the world began
or the first angel sang:

Glory and honour,
Glory and honour,
Glory and honour
To the great I Great I AM.
Glory and honour,
now and forever.
Glory and honour
To the Great I AM.

2. Almighty Lord,
whose word of power
sustains the universe–
each star, each flower;
who from the dust
formed human life
and breathed eternity within
each newborn baby’s cry. (Refrain)

3. Redeemer King,
how can it be
the Giver of all life
should die for me?
Astounding love, amazing grace!
And now our ransomed souls will sing
through everlasting days: (Refrain)

Words and music by Graham Kendrick and Greg Scheer © 2018 Make Way Music (, Admin North and South America and Greg Scheer Music (

Posted in Church, Congregational Songs, Demos | 2 Comments

Lord, Now Let Your Servant @ GKY Manggar Besar, Indonesia

One of my greatest joys is when a song takes on a life of its own and begins to travel to unexpected places and people. My setting of Simeon’s Song, “Lord, Now Let Your Servant Depart in Peace” was recently sung in Bahasa (Indonesian) and Chinese translations at GKY Mangga Besar Church in Jakarta.

GKY Mangga Besar

My friend, Lucky, was behind this. I met Lucky in 2015 when I was in Indonesia and he was just about to head to Grand Rapids to study at Calvin Seminary. His family and mine became close while he was in town. I was sad to see them return to Jakarta, but knew that God had big plans for them back at the GKY Church. This Christmas he decided to introduce my song to his congregation, and you can hear that his people really took to it.

One of the things I loved about worship in Indonesia is that people sing with all their heart. In this recording, you can hear the pastors urging on the congregation, and the people responding with full voices. I believe I’m also hearing a pipa (a strummed Chinese instrument that sounds a little like a mandolin tremolo) in the chorus, which sounds surprisingly good.

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2017 Year in Review

I said I’d make this an annual event, didn’t I?

The New Year is a time of taking stock of one’s life. For me, that includes the music I’ve been writing. It’s easy to get lost among the trees of day-to-day composing without having any sense of the musical forest. While working on this overview of 2017’s music, a few things came into focus:

  • I’ve been writing lots of music, and I think I’m getting pretty good at it.
  • These demo-quality recordings are fine, but I need to put out a bona fide album.
  • I am very prolific, but not particularly profitable. I’m not complaining; I love what I do. I just need to figure out ways of promoting myself better and turning notes into cash.

Take a listen to this Year in Review and let me know if you have any insights. My life is a work in progress, you know? I’ll take any advice you have.

Please feel free to share this. Those of you who subscribe to my blog are the elite insiders of my musical world. But this podcast style program makes for a nice introduction for those who are still wandering aimlessly in a vast musical wasteland.

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“Savior of the Nations Come” at Baylor University

Here is the recording of “Savior of the Nations, Come” performed at Baylor University’s 2017 Lessons and Carols service. I wish I could have been there in person. It sounds beautiful.

You can read about how the piece came to be written here: Of course, I’m happy to receive emails from anyone who would like to use it at their Lessons and Carols service. All the cool kids are doing it!



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I’m Coming Home, sung by Lauralei

And another one co-written by Colin Gordon-Farleigh and me, and sung by Lauralei: “I’m Coming Home.” It seems that this one was never posted to my blog, so this is really setting things right.

Take a listen:

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A-Plus Student, sung by Lauralei

I had almost forgotten about this song I wrote with Colin Gordon-Farleigh back in 2009 until he released a recording of it with Lauralei singing. It sounds pretty good!

Listen here:


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Clap Your Hands, at WLP


World Library Press now publishes “Clap Your Hands,” a Yoruba folk song I arranged for SATB Choir, Cantor, Flute/Piccolo and Percussion. Even better, they recorded a beautiful rendition of the arrangement that shows they really get the piece.

This is a great choice if you’re new to singing global music with your choir or if you want to highlight a flute player or percussionist. Added bonus: It’s based on Psalm 47, the Psalm for Ascension Day. Order it now so your copies will arrive in plenty of time to prepare for May 10!

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Born to Die, Born to Rise

For the fourth year in a row, I’ve been commissioned to write a piece for Calvin College’s Lessons and Carols service. Not only is it an honor, but it’s always a treat because I know the performances will be top-notch. This year was no exception. Calvin’s musicians did a wonderful job with my choral fantasy on the hymns “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Ah, Holy Jesus,” and “All My Heart Again Rejoices.”

Calvin College 2017 Lessons and Carols: Born to Die, Born to Rise

It seems that each year the commissions become more difficult. Last year I was asked to weave “Jacob’s Ladder” with a variety of “Gloria” songs; difficult, but at least the songs were similar in nature. This year, I almost thought John Witvliet was jerking my chain when he asked me to put “Lo, How a Rose” and “Ah, Holy Jesus” together in one anthem. You couldn’t find two more different songs!

On the other hand, they fit the theme, “Born to Die, Born to Rise” beautifully. Christmas can become saccharine when it’s populated only with sweet baby Jesuses, choruses of angels, and mild Marys. Just as the Magis’ myrrh foreshadowed Jesus’ burial, “Ah, Holy Jesus” reminds us of the full meaning of the incarnation. As I began to work on the piece, I found that I could weave “Lo, How a Rose” and “Ah, Holy Jesus” together in musical counterpoint that thickened both their differences and underlying unity. After focusing on these two sides of Christ, our only response can be praise; the piece ends with a rousing rendition of “All My Heart Again Rejoices.”

The recording is above. Email me if you’d like to see the score.

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Oh, That I Had Wings (Psalm 55)

You may have heard that I won the 2017 Church of the Servant New Psalm Contest with my Psalm 40 song, “Patiently.” What you may not have heard is that I lost the contest with my Psalm 55 song, “Oh, That I Had Wings.”

It’s understandable that my setting of Psalm 55 didn’t win. It is not the most endearing Psalm in the Psalter. It’s the plea of someone who has been betrayed and attacked by a former friend. Understandably, the Psalmist wants to beat a hasty retreat: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” These are emotions that most of us have faced, but perhaps few of us are interested in singing about them.

Given the urgency of the Psalm, I wrote a tune that comes in short, breathless bursts. The tight meter could have become trite, but there are lots of harmonic twists and turns to avoid that. The string arrangement on the recording (played by the St. Sinner Orchestra in one take into my laptop) creates a conversation with the melody that pushes the song forward. You can email me to get the string arrangement. You can download the piano version for free.

1. Listen to my prayer, O God, please hear:
troubled thoughts rise from a heart of fear;
Fear of those who would undo my days—
the whispers, stares, contempt, the lies and rage.

Oh, that I had wings,
Oh, that I had wings to fly,
Oh, that I had wings to fly away.

2. Malice seeks its prey, it roams the streets.
Night and day, it prowls— there is no peace.
God, please let the innocent escape,
while schemers writhe within the traps they’ve laid. (refrain)

3. Bracing for the sword of foe’s attack,
feel the steel of dagger in my back.
Why have you betrayed me, oh my friend?
The one with whom I’ve shared the wine and bread? (refrain)

4. Night and day, I pray, O God, please hear:
troubled thoughts rise from a heart of fear.
Every care that weighs upon my soul
is safe with you, please keep me safe, O Lord. (refrain)

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