Church of the Servant is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 New Psalm Contest:
First Place goes to
“You Are My Shepherd” (Psalm 23) by Gloria Fanchiang.
Second Place goes to
“Praise the Lord Our Faithful God” (Psalm 146) by Joel Stamoolis.
In its fourteen years the Church of the Servant New Psalm Contest, in memory of Ben Fackler, has garnered many quality Psalm songs from a diverse group of songwriters. We are grateful to all the Psalm writers, whether this is the first year they have submitted, or their fourteenth year of submitting! We hope that this contest will be an encouragement to songwriters to continue writing new settings of the Psalms. And we hope that this contest will be a blessing to the Church, continuing to provide it with new Psalm songs for congregations to sing.
The judges are often skeptical of entries for Psalms that already have many wonderful settings, and Psalm 23 probably has more wonderful settings than any other Psalm! Even still, Gloria Fanchiang’s setting of Psalm 23 was convincing enough that the judges thought it had a place amongst all the other settings of Psalm 23. The judges thought is was a “clean and pure” setting of the Psalm, a refreshing and comforting setting of a refreshing and comforting Psalm. They liked the change in musical texture in the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” section of the Psalm, fitting the music to the text. And they appreciated the singability and “responsible” song-writing. (“Responsible” meaning that the singers can easily figure out where the music is going.) The thing that sold the judges, though, was that they could see a variety of uses for this setting. One judge could see the opening part of the song sung as a refrain during a reading of scripture, particularly mentioning the Ezekiel passage on a good shepherd. Another judge could see that opening section being used as a sung refrain punctuating the parts of a long prayer.
“You Are My Shepherd” (Psalm 23): PDF, MP3, Cello part
Joel Stamoolis’ “Praise the Lord Our Faithful God” (Psalm 146) struck the judges as fitting right in the center of the musical culture and repertoire at Church of the Servant and many other churches. They thought it fit the style of the music at COS and would be easily picked up by our congregation. The judges thought both the music and the text had a good predictability to them that would allow a congregation to engage with the Psalm without having to divert their attention to details of music-reading or distracting turns of phrases. One judge said that a predictability in rhymes for a song allows him to “get off the page” and sing the Psalm in a heart-felt way. Technically speaking, the judges appreciated the musical balance between the verses and chorus and the clear meter of the song. The judges also liked the way the end of the verse led into the “Hallelujah’s” of the chorus. They could envision the congregation’s hands going up in the air on the chorus. Finally, the judges always like when a Psalm setting goes beyond the simple restating of the Psalm text to include an application, or a new connection, or a fresh take on an old metaphor, and they saw the return to placing our trust in the faithful King in verse 3 as that fitting application of this Psalm.
We will premiere both winning entries in our
worship service on
Sunday, February 11, 2024
We welcome visitors to join us for this service in person or by Zoom.
Visit our church website that morning to find the Zoom link to the service.
The goal of this contest is to encourage Psalm singing and writing. So in addition to awarding first- and second-place winners, the judges have also chosen a few honorable mentions that they would commend to congregations for singing:
Thank you to all those who submitted a composition for this year’s contest. We were blessed to sing, discuss, and reflect on the submissions and are pleased to see so many musicians undertaking the work of writing new Psalm settings for worship.
Thank you also to our judges, who volunteered many hours to make this process possible. If you would like to read more about our judging process, please visit our description of the process here: Judging Process.
COS and the judging committee are grateful for the generosity of the donors who have faithfully funded this contest for over 10 years. If you are interested in donating to the New Psalm Contest please contact Maria Stapert Vander Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contribute online HERE.
You can stay up to date on COS Psalm Contest news or subscribe to our mailing list HERE.
You can print and hear the winning entries from past years at www.churchoftheservantcrc.org/newpsalmcontest