A World of Psalm 119

Psalm 119, with 176 verses, is the longest chapter in the book of Psalms – the longest Psalm – and the longest chapter in the Bible. It contains several wonderful memory verses, some of which have been set to popular Christian music: Thy Word (is a lamp unto my feet) – by Amy Grant (Psalm 119:105).

The Psalm is a special type of acrostic, composed in 22 sets of eight verses, or bicolons, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This lengthy Psalm can overwhelm attempts to set it to music – not only because it is long, but also because it can seem repetitive. The Anglican Psalter prayer schedule breaks down Psalm 119 in five separate morning and evening sessions.

Several songwriters have composed  22 settings for each of the alphabetical stanzas:

Charles Ciepiel 

(Worship Arts Pastor at New Creation Church, Longmont, Colorado) Composed the album “Psalm 119” and released it in 1997. It’s available on iTunes. These compositions run from 1:30 to 3:30, and use the NKJV as the text (as do Scott Brenner and Esther Mui). Ciepiel employs different musical stylings to distinguish each setting. The word-for-word rendering can be a little clunky at times, but Ciepiel has maintained ab solute fidelity with the NKJV translation, which facilitates memorization as well as devotional use.

John Kramp

(Pastor, LifeWay team, and Riverside Consultant) Composed the album (with a companion website and book, available on Amazon) initially for personal devotional use, then produced and released an album – with karaoke tracks!) in 2014. If you register on his website, you can download an e-book describing a devotional practice of writing your own acrostic. The music is varied and contemporary in style, and the settings run from 1:30-4:20. Kramp uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible – HCSB – as his text.

Kramp’s goal is to facilitate devotional meditation & prayer as well as memorization. He quotes Wilberforce’s journal entry about walking through Hyde Park one day while reciting Psalm 119. Before composing the Psalm 119 Experience, Kramp’s song, “Touch of the Master’s Hand” was recorded by Wayne Watson.

Tom Quinlan

(Christian from Asheville, NC) Tom wrote 22 settings to Psalm 119 – using the NIV translation) during nine months in 2007, in the wake of the loss of his spiritual mentor, Art Katz. His album and chord sheets are available at Zion Christian Press, a website/ministry Quinlan birthed. They are also on YouTube.

Susie Kimbrough

Between July, 1998 and May, 2001, Kimbrough composed 22 settings of Psalm 119 (using the KJV translation) to facilitate devotional memorization for her family. Her husband got on board, and they wrote a companion book, produced a CD and website, Shepard Music Company. These are typically short settings, from 1:17-2:34, and are written in a range of musical styles. The CD/mp3 download and songbook each sell for $18 on their website.

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