A Church Music Colloquium 

Psalm Tap is a colloquium where pastors and musicians discuss the nuts and bolts of composing and teaching music in the church.

When we follow the psalmist’s encouragement to sing new songs to the Lord (Ps. 98), we are faced with a lineup of questions: What should these new songs sound like? How should we sing them? What instruments (if any) should accompany them? Above all, where does the book of Psalms fit into the picture?

Other questions follow, adding to the hubbub. Once we have a singable tune and appropriate lyrics, how will the congregation learn to sing it? For a musically uneducated church, would it be better to stick with stuff they can queue up on Spotify instead of laboring over new compositions? Should we print music in the bulletin or will lyrics suffice? What are the pros and cons of using a hymnal or a psalter? And what about instruments? Is a trap set appropriate in the sanctuary? What about a set of bagpipes? Parts singing? Unison? A song leader? A projector screen? Clapping? Dancing? If not, why not?

The target is large, obvious, and important—build churches that sing well. The means of reaching that target are varied, challenging, yet equally important. Church musicians have an enormous task ahead of them—they must teach their congregations new songs—but it is work that, done well, will bear fruit for generations to come.

At Psalm Tap, church musicians will present new compositions (musical and lyrical) to an audience with a vested interest in their quality and discuss the best ways of learning and singing them. The hope is that, by gathering together in one place, we can find answers to some of the questions above. If you are a church musician, a pastor, or merely a churchgoer with a psalter and some strong opinions, consider joining us.

As I said, it’s a big job. But the good news is that it has been done before. All the hymns we adore were at one time brand spanking new. Every old favorite was written, composed, arranged, and taught. It can be done, so let’s get to work. Let’s write the new old favorites.