Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Psalm settings for Community Choir concert

Dear Colleagues,
I am interested in programming a concert of 6-7 psalm settings for my 30-40 community choir this spring. I would like to have representative repertoire from many historical periods but something accessible for just regular community singers. It would be great if it is in English, or has a decent English singing version. Solo repertoire would work as well. A Cappella, or accompanied by keyboard, brass, possibly woodwinds but no strings.
What are some of your accessible favorites?
Patricia Corbin
Jacksonville State University
Jacksonville, Alabama
Replies (21): Threaded | Chronological
on December 5, 2011 9:31am
Here is a ChoralNet resource on this topic.
on December 5, 2011 4:33pm
My choir loved Imant Raminsh's setting of Psalm 104 "Bless the Lord, O my soul" - Boosey & Hawkes
Brigid Coult
Richmond BC
on December 5, 2011 4:45pm
Listen to Laudate Dominum by Carlyle Sharp for SATB and piano from Psalm 116.  EC Schirmer is the publisher.
on December 5, 2011 6:47pm
Patricia (and colleagues):  I was commissioned several years ago to write settings of four Psalms that had been selected by the co-pastors of a Presbyterian church for a month-long congregational revitalization project they undertook with funding from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.  I wrote for a rather good but typical church choir--so a community chorus should have no problems --plus brass quintet, organ OR piano, and percussion or rhythm section as appropriate for each one.  There is also Youth Choir for two of them, but that can be covered by choir women if desired.
I was asked to write in "Contemporary" style, which in fact leaves things wide open, but I took them at their word and used a mixture of styles that they might not have anticipated.  I did not consider myself limited to any one definition of "contemporary."  And the texts were in part traditional, in part from modern "translations" (some would say distortions, but they were provided the the co-pastors), and a few additions by me.  They were very well received, and were performed both as written and in earlier services with keyboard alone, so both work.
The Psalms were A Psalm of Trust (Psalm 27), A Psalm of Lamentation (Psalm 13), A Psalm or Vengeance (Psalm 58), and A Psalm of Praise (Psalm 146).  I'd be happy to send perusal copies or more detailed descriptions to anyone who is interested.  Please contact me off-list.  (And there is a back story that is kind of scary, which I'd be happy to share if anyone is interested.)
on December 6, 2011 5:34am
I can send three psalm settings your way.  First,may I suggest RIVERS OF BABYLON (psalm 137) arr. by Ken Burton. It's in a collection of spirituals and gospel choruses called Ready to Ride! publ. by Faber Music.  Pricey...but worth it, considering the other fine pieces of the 5-tune collection. You can hear this arr. at
Next...another setting of 137....a choral staple....BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON, SATB, piano - by Philip James.  It's been around for years, and is a brilliant, emotionally charged setting of this psalm of the captivity.  Has been recorded many times.  You can hear an excerpt by a men's choir at:
Finally, my love of jazz suggests that you consider PSALM 23: THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, set by H.W. Zimmermann.  SATB, organ, and string bass -The choir sings in beautiful, spacial counterpoint to the organ's simply stated hymn ST. COLUMBA.  Good Luck....and Merry Christmas!
on December 6, 2011 9:08am
Thank  you all for your suggestions so far. I should have emphasized in my posting that I am really in  need of suggestions of psalm settings by pre 20th century composers that will offer a great historical perspective but are yet  still accessible for a community choir.  Although an english setting would be great, it could be in a foreign language.
I look forward to your continuing suggestions!
Patricia Corbin
Jacksonville State University
Jacksonville, AL
on December 6, 2011 10:00am
on December 28, 2011 12:52pm
Have you considered Anglican chant?  Generally it's SATB.  Great pieces by Martin Luther, David Hurd, et al.  Repetition of the music for verses, so it's do-able without too much rehearsal.  Many samples have organ accompaniment, but I've always been in a situation where A.c. has been done a cappella.
on December 6, 2011 10:43am
Not from the Psalms proper, but you might have a look at three settings from the Songs of Solomon by Melchior Franck 1573-1639, in five parts. These were published
in an anthology in the 1950s edited by Noah Greenberg, founder of the New York Pro Musica, and that is probably still in print. Just don't  fib to your choristers about
how these poems are religious allegories, because they are frankly erotic. Somewhat but hardly overwhelmingly difficult. 
From the Psalms proper:  there are beautiful settings of French Huguenot Psalms, by Sweelinck, of varying difficulty, from four parts up to eight (Psalm 150). Also 
by Claude Goudimel. Will send more tips if I think of any.  
James Johnson ASCAP 1551618
Please have a look at my own choral works on my ChoralNet page.
on December 6, 2011 5:46pm
ECS Publishing has an entire series devoted to accessible psalm settings known as Psalm Songs.
It features new translations.
Here is a link to the series.
on December 6, 2011 6:39pm
Patricia -- You will find lots from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, including some in original English as well as Latin and German.  Look for Renaissance composers Byrd, De Lassus (di Lasso), Des Prez (Josquin), Gombert, Guerrero, Morales, Palestrina, Parsons, Rossi (in Hebrew), Sheppard, Sweenlick, Tallis, Tye, Victoria or Baroque composers Buxtehude, Charpentier, Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Schütz, Vivaldi.  I don't have good tips for the Classical period, but am aware that Haydn wrote a set of psalms in English and Mozart some Vespers and Miserere, which use psalms texts.  For Romantic period, check out Franck's Psalm 150, Brahms "Wie Lieblich Sind Deine Wohnungen" (Psalm 84, How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place), Schubert's Psalm 23 (for treble voices).  All three are availble with organ reduction and English translation.  Mendelssohn and Rheinberger offer various psalm motets (not sure what's available in English translation).  I like Mendelssohn's "Richte Mich Gott" (Psalm 43) and, a bigger piece with treble solo, "Lord, Hear My Prayer" (Psalm ).  Stanford and Parry wrote several nice choral psalms in English.  American Amy Beach's "Jubilate Deo" (Psalm 100) would be another great possibility.
Now back to the late 1600s, 1700s and early 1800s.  The tradition of Anglo-American psalmody offers much to choose from in English.  Rhymed metrical versions of the psalms go back to Calvin and the French-Swiss Huguenots and migrated to early America by way of England.  The most widespread psalters in England were Sternhold and Hopkins "The Whole Booke of Psalmes" and later the Ainsworth Psalter.  In America, the Puritans undertook new translations, with "The Bay Psalm Book" becoming the first book published in the New World, and in a later edition, the first music published in America.  Meanwhile, Isaac Watts' hymns gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, while composers in America and England began putting psalm-poems to new hymn-tunes and through-composed anthems, often fuguing tunes.
What does all this history mean for you?  With a little searching, for any psalm, you should be able to find a hymn-like setting that was sung in Colonial or Federal America.  These would be accessible, part of our community singing heritage after all.  Here are some from the Bay Psalm Book.  Psalm 4  (Oxford Tune); Psalm 23  (Low Dutch Tune); Psalm 73  (York Tune); Psalm 39  (Martyr's Tune).  (Credit to Gregg Smith, who selected these four for one of his recordings.)
In addition, there would be several simpler, fun and interesting compositions.  One of my favorites is Billings' "An Anthem for Thanksgiving" (Psalm 148).   Jacob Kimball's "Give to the Lord Immortal Praise" (Psalm 136) is another.  Also, consider Thomas Lee's "Behold, How Good and How Pleasant" (Psalm 133 & 122).  Look for pieces by early American composers like Supply Belcher, William Billings, Jacob French, Samuel Holyoke, Andrew Law, James Lyon, Jacob Kimball, Justin Morgan, Daniel Read, Nehemiah Shumway, Timothy Swan, William Tans'ur, Elisha West & Abraham Wood.  Many will be psalm-based.  No, they're not Palestrina, Schütz or Franck, but worth including if you want to present representative repertoire and some American heritage.  
Moving to the 1800's and 1900's, a lot of versifed psalm texts (by Watts and others) remained popular and found their way into shape-note collections and later hymns, which could be another source of repertoire for your program.  I hope you'll consider Charles Ives -- especially his earlier work, which was less challenging and not so far into the 20th century.  I'd suggest Psalm 42, As Pants the Hart, for mixed choir and organ, one of his first works and charming.
One problem with the early American hymns on a concert (or other hymns) is the danger of every verse being similar, even if you vary dynamics, etc.  I have arragned Holyoke's "O Thou, That Hears't When Sinners Cry" (Psalm 51) for SATB choir.   It works as an anthem, taking his original vocal parts, but using them in various ways over four verses to create a composition that goes on a journey.  So you might take a look at it for your program too.  Good luck, chris
on December 8, 2011 4:11pm
Sweelinck: Psalm 96, from the Fourth Book of Psalms published 1621, SATB in French with English trat. challenging but hardly undoable by a community chorus, Mercury Music reprint
from the old Dessoff Choir Series, ed. Paul Boepple. No keyboard reduction for practice. Excellent! 
on December 9, 2011 5:54am
"Kentucky Psalms" by Alice Parker are worth your perusal. While I have not performed them, I have looked at them as possible pieces for a similar program like you've suggested. They may be out of print, but certainly you could get permission to copy. I learned of the pieces from another community choir director, whose chorus really enjoyed them.
Good Luck!
Michael Main, Artisitic Director
The Arts Chorale of Winchester
on December 16, 2011 5:29am
Let me tell you about a project in Stockholm that was finnished this spring. Sven-David Sandström was engaged by the Dome cathedral in Stockholm, Sweden, to write music for every sunday i the church year. The commission was to write music for the choirs of the church, which was challenging for Sandström as he mostly writes for professional ensembles. Most of the texts are psalms. This project lasted for a three years period and now the 70 pieces are beeing prepared for publishing. Most of them are in Swedish but there are plans to translate them to english. But there is one song in this series that is in english from the beginning: The Lord's prayer.
The other pieces that are published you can search at the publisher's homepage by typing "Musik för kyrkoåret" in the text sarch field.
Good luck,
on December 17, 2011 8:14am

A few years ago I was commissioned to write a work for the Region VI Convention of the American Guild of Organists held in St. Joseph, Missouri. The resulting work, Psalms and Canticles of Prayer, Praise and Peace, was performed by The St. Joseph Community Chorus under Frank D. Thomas. It is scored essentially for organ, with variety of optional instruments. The movements are Psalm 57 (Have Mercy on Me, O God), Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, (A Psalm of Peace) Psalm 23 (Holy One You are My Shepherd), and The Benedicite (Let the Whole Creation Bless the Lord). All may be heard at I would be pleased to send along sample scores.
on December 18, 2011 7:01am
I would like to recommend my a cappella setting of Psalm 121 - I Will Lift Mine Eyes - published by Boosey & Hawkes.  You can listen to a recording and find out more information here:
All the best,
Jake Runestad
composer & conductor
on December 25, 2011 6:37pm
I just did a concert where the first half consisted of 7 Psalm settings.  Now, it was for a women's choir, so most of the repertoire won't be directly relevant (but who knows, maybe you want to throw one men's piece and one women's piece in there?), but just to give you an idea, we did...
Laudate Pueri Dominum- Michael Haydn
Laudate Pueri Dominum- Mendelssohn
Cantate Domino- Pitoni (arr. for SSA, originally SATB)
Psalm 23- Schubert
Lam'natzeiach Livnei Korach Mizmor- Srul Irving Glick
Psalm 143- my setting
Salmo 150- Aguiar (originally SATB)
Other favorites for SATB to recommend...
Dixit Dominus from the solemn vespers- Mozart
Richte mich gott- Mendelssohn (challenging a cappella work, but a gem)
Laudate Dominum II- Monteverdi (8 parts, but very dooable)
Cantate Domino- Hassler (or Croce, or Pitoni)
on December 26, 2011 4:57am
I also put together a program that consisted of several Psalm settings.  So many combinations possible, especially once you start thinking of language, era, voicing, and key areas.  These are ones I used...a couple of lesser known works that are well worth it!
Salmo 150   Ernani Aguiar
Psalm 133   Michael Hennagin  (Walton Music... may be OOP)
Blagoslovi, dushe moia, Gospodi     Pavel Chesnokov  (available on cpdl)   SSAA
Before I Go My Way    Peter Hamlin   (unpublished... check with composer at Middlebury College) with solo viola
I Was Glad  C.H.H. Parry   
good luck-
Josh Nannestad
Milford, MA
on December 27, 2011 6:26am
Hi Patricia, I like your idea of a concert of psalms. It'll be interesting to see what you come up with. You might check out several of my Psalm settings. The two choral works are intended for just such a group as yours. You can see them at my web site,
O Sing unto the Lord. Psalms 96 & 98, SATB & piano four hands
Make a Joyful Noise, Psalm 100, SATB & organ/piano
O Lord, You have searched me out. Psalm 139, soprano and organ/piano
I have another set of four psalms for solo voice, but these are pretty demanding 
Best of luck, and have a great New Year. 
John Newell
on December 27, 2011 11:18am
May I point out Psalm 150 of mine, a cappella but with optional cymbals:
on December 27, 2011 11:58am

My semi-professional chamber choir did a concert of psalm settings last fall.  Here is the complete program.  Some settings would certainly fit your criteria.

Marie Grass Amenta, founder and music director

the Midwest Motet Society


Fall 2010 “Settings of the Psalms”

Gott ist mein Hirt, Franz Schubert

Psalm 23

The 23rd Psalm, Bobby McFerrin

(dedicated to my mother)

Hide Not Thou Thy Face, Richard Farrant

Psalm 27:10

Afferentur regi virgines post eam, Anton Bruckner

Psalm 45: 14-15

The Lord,th’Almighty Monarch, Spake, Franz Joseph Haydn

Psalm 50

Go Not Far From Me, O God, Nicola Zingarelli

Psalm 71

Unto Thee, O God, Alan Hovhaness

Psalm 75:1

The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune, Ralph Vaughan Williams

Bless the Lord O My Soul, Mikail Ippolitov-Ivanov

Psalm 102

Praise Ye the Lord, Alan Hovhaness

Psalm 106:1

Psalm 121, Dave Brubeck

Psalm 150, Cesar Franck

  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.