“O Sing to the Lord a New Song” (Psalm 96) was commissioned by Drs. Mary Ann and Gerald Taylor in honor of and in appreciation for the Rev. Edgar Douglas Christman’s forty-nine years of distinguished service to the Wake Forest University community. Psalm 96 is one of Chaplain Christman’s favorite Psalms. The World Premiere of “O Sing to the Lord a New Song” was given by the Wake Forest University Concert Choir (Brian Gorelick, Conductor) in Brendle Recital Hall of Wake Forest University on 4 December 2003.
Approximately five minutes in length, the musical materials on which “O Sing to the Lord a New Song” (Psalm 96) are based on Rev. Christman’s initials: “E-D-C.” The opening section, marked “Majestic, with strength,” begins with a brief piano introduction made up of chords whose sole pitch materials are “E-D-C.” Marked by dotted rhythms, the alto and bass sections soon begin a dialogue with the soprano and tenor sections singing the text, “O Sing to the Lord a new song…” Though the intervals making up “E-D-C” remain, the tonality now shifts from “C” to “C-flat,” then to “E-flat” and then to “A.” Soon, beginning with the text, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised…” the spirit of the music shifts to a more legato style as the individual sections of the choir alternate lyrical lines of music. After a climax is reached on the text, “…strength and beauty are in his sanctuary…,” the warm and gentle mid-section appears. Here, expressing the text, “Ascribe to the Lord…,” both the tonality of “C” and the dialogues between the alto/bass and soprano/tenor sections that began the composition return. After this section reaches a climax at “…tremble before him all the earth!…,” the style and spirit of the majestic opening returns, this time centered on “D.” This section leads into the exuberant and highly rhythmical “E-centered” section celebrating the words, “Let the heavens be glad….” After a climax is reached on the words “…sing for joy before the Lord…,” the opening section again returns (now centered on “E”) exclaiming the text “…for he comes to judge the earth…,” leading to the piece’s “D-centered” climax and ending at the words, “…and the peoples with his truth.”
Psalm 96 (Revised Standard Version)
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols;
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in holy array;
tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yea, the world is established,
it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Let the heavens be glad,
and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.