#PsalmQuest

Latest #PsalmQuest Composition:

  • #PsalmQuest 55 Let Our Faces Shine Let Our Faces Shine Program Note “Let Our Faces Shine” is based on a version of Psalm 34 written by Scottish poet Frank McEleny. The gentle plodding bass line introduces a calm environment which the percussion punctuates and the flute creeps in to support. Soon, though, the flute takes over like a bright light shining on our faces, with the ...

We all have stories. Many stories. Here is one of mine:#PsalmQuest 2020

In early 2013 I applied for another Masters’ degree, this time in composition, but it was rejected. Although I have been composing since my teen years my formal training was minimal. So I set out to prove to myself that I can compose!

At that time my friend Chris Guillebeau was completing his quest to visit every country in the world by his 35th birthday, and through an odd process of logical thought, I combined his idea with my desire: to write a large number of compositions by my next big birthday. Click here to read about the project.

#PsalmQuest Compositions

These two lists of compositions are the outcomes of my quest, scheduled for completion at the end of May 2020.

Link to #PsalmQuest compositions by psalm number:

Full list of #PsalmQuest compositions in chronological order:

  • #PsalmQuest 55 Let Our Faces Shine Let Our Faces Shine Program Note “Let Our Faces Shine” is based on a version of Psalm 34 written by Scottish poet Frank McEleny. The gentle plodding bass line introduces a calm environment which the percussion punctuates and the flute creeps in to support. Soon, though, the flute takes over like a bright light shining on our faces, with the ...
  • #PsalmQuest 54 Bagatelle Program Note “Bagatelle for Piano” began a completely different life, for solo bassoon. But the piece was not working and the slow, drudging melancholy seemed out of place. On the other hand, the piano presented its own challenges but overall the piece is effective. Note the slow and then rapid decline in semi-tones in the last ...
  • #PsalmQuest 53 Downcast Hope Program Note “Downcast Hope” reflects the two primary emotions expressed in Psalm 43. It is written for four percussionists on a variety of wood, metal and drum instruments. Effective use of dynamics forces listeners to engage in the piece and consider the slow pace of life when feeling downcast, as opposed to the upbeatness of hope, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 52 Anger Peace #PsalmQuest 52 Anger Peace for Percussion TrioProgram Note “Anger Peace” takes us on a similar journey to that described in Psalm 77, but it focuses on just one of the visual elements – a storm. Beginning with the noisy and intimidating beauty of the storm itself, we are then transported to the distant and repetitive thunder with rain constantly pounding at the ...
  • #PsalmQuest 51 The King "The King" based on Psalm 2 for Percussion DuoProgram Note “The King” is a short, regal, audio representation of Psalm 2. Influenced by its own placement in the Book of Psalms, there are two players with two instruments each, playing two sections that are repeated (albeit backwards: ABBA). In addition, some foot stomping as well as instrumental trespassing also takes place. Visit www.StephenPBrown.com to ...
  • #PsalmQuest 50 May He "May He" for Alto and Piano by Stephen P BrownProgram Note “May He” consists of several lines of text beginning with May He… plus a couple of others. The music is tonal yet contemporary in style and requires the singer to have a slightly expanded vocal range beyond that of a normal alto. Perfect for student recitals, this composition is similar to a set of vignettes, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 49 Psalm 75 "Psalm 75" for Horn and Orchestra by Stephen P BrownProgram Note “Psalm 75” was a difficult composition to complete although its conversational structure seemed simple at first. It went through several iterations and multiple titles before settling. After a little introduction, the horn introduces a phrase which the orchestra repeats. This happens three times before the orchestra runs with the whole theme in a new ...
  • #PsalmQuest 48 Ivesionian #PsalmQuest 48 IvesionianProgram Note “Ivesionian” begins with good intentions, but as was so often experienced by Charles Ives, there are times when musicians are not always perfect in what they do, and some do not even want to participate in more communal music-making so they do their own thing. Ives has become known as a pioneer composer which ...
  • #PsalmQuest 47 A Whistling Declaration #PsalmQuest 47 A Whistling DeclarationProgram Note “A Whistling Declaration” grew from a desire to both write for concert/ wind band as well a something more modern than the traditional romantic mood. The key of E Major seems appropriate enough, too. It is suitable for many wind instruments (although I am pretty sure the clarinet and trumpets will complain – their key ...
  • #PsalmQuest 46 Mirror 6 #PsalmQuest 46 Mirror 6Program Note “Mirror 6” was an attempt at combining several musical tools including the Dorian mode, a slow piece, and even a soaring melody the cellos can lean into. It is based on a psalm related to joy and praise, and the minor-like key opposes the natural tendencies of popular happy music.  Utilizing silence as much ...
  • #PsalmQuest 45 Bigger Than Loyal #PsalmQuest 45 Bigger Than LoyalProgram Note “Bigger Thank Loyal” is a short ditty for violin and piano that is inspired by Psalm 117. The music encompasses the psalm’s theme of praise and loyalty in both upbeat, happy euphoric worship as well as more gentle personal reflection. The opening and closing sections are very rhythmic whereas the middle section is lyrical ...
  • #PsalmQuest 44 Extreme Gratitude Reviews help other listeners and performers make their own assessment of the piece I wrote, and also helps me figure a few things out, tooProgram Note “Extreme Gratitude” was a great deal of fun to compose. The first movement represents individual thanks, just as the first part of psalm 138 does. At no time do the violin and piano play at the same time. The second movement is inspiring – the violin plays a whopping one note the entire time ...
  • #PsalmQuest 43 Cerddoriaeth 4 Cerddoriaeth 4 for solo violin by Stephen P BrownProgram Note “Cerddoriaeth 4” is based on psalm 46, most famous for the verse “Be still and know that I am God.” The psalm also conveys God’s strength and portrays him as our fortress. At the same time, one of the elements of cerddoriaeth (the Welsh word for “music”) is Timbre. Therefore, this composition exhibits several ...
  • #PsalmQuest 42 Happy Dance #PsalmQuest 42 - Happy Dance“Enjoying this masterpiece “Happy Dance” Stephen. LA best wishes.” Chuck Brunicardi Program Note Although not overly ecstatic, loud and fast like many contemporary celebration compositions, “Happy Dance” is, nonetheless, a happy dance. The psalm it is based on is all about praise, with a little contrast and clearly defined passages. The music reflects the character of the psalm ...
  • #PsalmQuest 41 – The Wedding Song #PsalmQuest 41 The Wedding SongProgram Note “The Wedding Song” Began its existence as a string quartet suitable for playing at different times throughout a wedding ceremony, but such an undertaking soon became overwhelming within the compositions’ development constraints. Instead, the piece followed the original #PsalmQuest plan and was written for a solo violinist. The piece can still be played at ...
  • #PsalmQuest 40 – Turn Again #PsalmQuest composition Turn Again for four trumpets by Stephen P BrownProgram Note “Turn Again” is one author’s interpretation of what psalm 80 is about. This composition is for four trumpets which can be considered a call to action – not war or arms, but to turn towards something (trumpets can certainly make your head turn!) My friend Jim Stretton put me in touch with Mark Harrison, a ...
  • #PsalmQuest 39 Ecce Quam Bonum "Ecce Quam Bonum" for choir percussion and two pianos by Stephen P Brown“Ecce Quam Bonum” is Latin and can be translated as “See how good.” Whilst looking for text to set to music I came across many translations and poems and liked this first sentence in Latin so much I kept it in the introduction! Fortunately, the rest of the text in this piece is in English, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 38 A River of Love A River Of Love for Choir and Piano by Stephen P Brown  Lyrics are not my strongest skill so I looked for a poetic interpretation of psalm 120 and came across the work of Scottish American poet Frank McEleny. After a very pleasant email exchange Frank gave me permission to set his poem Psalm 120 to music, and having selected to write for choir and piano, set ...
  • #PsalmQuest 37 King David’s Rag King David's Rag for solo piano by Stephen P Brown  What a delightful piece! After figuring out that Psalm 51 is about prayers for restoration, I wanted to add something syncopated and perhaps, like in the last couple of compositions, a few “oom-pah” bass lines (because I like them). Well, within three bars it was clear this was going to be no ordinary composition! Originally ...
  • #PsalmQuest 36 Guidance "Guidance" for solo piano by Stephen P Brown“Guidance” is a similar composition style to one of my first piano compositions of this revival era Not Rach 3. The piece is built on four broken chords which switch order in section B, and then switch key in section C. As life is a journey, this piece reflects the ongoing nature of being led by ...
  • #PsalmQuest 35 The Beautiful City The Beautiful City for solo piano by Stephen P Brown“The Beautiful City” portrays the three main elements as described in Psalm 48: Towers, Ramparts and Citadels. It is a great piece for recitals as it starts simply to generate confidence in both performer and listeners. It soon gets grand, though, as we move through the busy, bustling market place.    
  • #PsalmQuest 34 Vignettes "Vignettes" for solo piano by Stephen P Brown #PsalmQuest“Vignettes” is a series of nine short musical portraits of elements mentioned within Psalm 50, including fire, a storm, a bull, a goat, a forest, cattle, birds, insects, and sacrifice. The composition can be played as written, or individual movements may be isolated for special occasions. It is a great piece for recitals.    
  • #PsalmQuest 33 Dark Sunshine Dark Sunshine for cello and piano by Stephen P Brown“Dark Sunshine” reflects psalm 27’s contrasting character, taking us from darkness into light. I chose to utilize the theme a little differently and incorporate the idea of dark light and mix the music with major and minor keys, including a lovely middle section with a gently flowing melody – quite beautiful.    
  • #PsalmQuest 32 There Is A Way There Is A Way for solo Trumpet by Stephen P Brown“There Is A Way” leads us out of turmoil towards peace – preparation for a time of rest. This composition is a fanfare to call the congregation to order, and repeats itself being structured in a similar way to psalm 95 itself: ABABC. Parts are delivered for both trumpet in Bb and trumpet in C – you ...
  • #PsalmQuest 31 Cerddoriaeth 3 Cerddoriaeth 3 for solo Clarinet by Stephen P Brown“Cerrdoiaeth 3” is a charming composition for an ambitious clarinet player willing to boast their control of dynamics. In this day and age most music is played at a consistent volume throughout, whereas much classical music should be enlivened with exaggerated loud and quiet passages. There are three continuous sections, all based on God’s discernment of, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 30 How Long? How Long? for Brass Quintet by Stephen P Brown“How Long?” is a lament of three sections, similar to psalm 79 itself. There are questions, prayer and hope for salvation. The middle theme is like an English country dance (which makes it suitable for a brass ensemble), but the surrounding motifs portray a soulful, contemplative character that make the dynamic contrasts particularly powerful.  
  • #PsalmQuest 29 Un Chateau Fort Un Chateau Fort for Soprano and Piano by Stephen P Brown“Un Chateau Fort” is an intriguing composition. I wanted to write something for soprano and at the time was watching several of my former students and friends present their higher education final exam master classes. Thinking about singers presenting their recitals, they are usually required to sing in more than one language. So I took ...
  • #PsalmQuest 28 But As For Me But As For Me for Tenor and Strings by Stephen P Brown“But As For Me” has lyrics based on Psalm 55 and is structured in a similar way. The chorus focuses on four aspects of the psalmist’s relationship with God: seeking, asking, racing, and trusting Him. It was written for this combination of performers thanks to Dave Gustavson, Senior Pastor at Jacksonville Chapel in New Jersey.    
  • #PsalmQuest 27 Mirror 5 Mirror 5 for Viola Cello and Percussion by Stephen P Brown“Mirror 5” is a fun composition written for one of my international coaching students, Gaby, upon her acceptance and enrollment to a music conservatory in Europe. The percussion part can actually be played by one or even both violin players of a string quartet, banging chairs, music stands, hard instrument cases, a table, percussion instruments, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 26 Cerddoriaeth 2 Cerddoriaeth 2 for solo Piano by Stephen P Brown“Cerddoriaeth 2” for solo piano is a simple four-section narrative exploring wrath, restoration, anticipation and hope, in the same way psalm 85 does. This happens to be one of my favorite compositions to date, and I’m planning to play it myself well enough for public performance soon!    
  • #PsalmQuest 25 The Land Of Oblivion The Land Of Oblivion for Trombone and Wind Sinfonia by Stephen P Brown“The Land Of Oblivion” was composed after a follower on Twitter reached out to me via email and asked if I was planning to do anything in my project with trombone or bass trombone. It got penciled into the schedule and soon a concerto for trombone and wind sinfonia (an ensemble with just one player ...
  • #PsalmQuest 24 Mirror 4 Mirror 4 for four Harps by Stephen P Brown“Mirror 4” reflects the structure of Psalm 86, ABCBA, and each section has two themes: a prayer for mercy and a confession. In addition, the harmonic structure is based on the lydian mode (a C Major scale with the note F replaced by F#). I met the CLOUDS Harp Quartet on Twitter and decided to write ...
  • #PsalmQuest 23 Cerddoriaeth 1 Cerddoriaeth 1 for solo Marimba by Stephen P Brown“Cerddoriaeth 1” explores the element of music known as pitch – high and low sounds. The term Cerddoriaeth is Welsh, and may be translated into English as “music.” The players does use all four sides of the marimba so at one point they perform with their back to the audience. The piece was written for Aaron ...
  • #PsalmQuest 22 Tencan Chine Tencan Chine for Percussion Ensemble by Stephen P Brown“Tencan Chine” was written for Ten Can Percussion, a trio based in Australia, and also the McCormick Percussion Ensemble in Florida. The piece does require ten cans from mini ginger ale cans to large oil drum cans, but any metallic objects can be used such as bells (as in the audio file below), brake drums, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 21 Celebration Celebration for Orchestra by Stephen P Brown“Celebration” is definitely one of my own favorites, with a traditional melody accompanied by ‘busy-ness’ and a raucous middle section that transitions back into a party-like tutti. This piece is definitely a party, and some feedback has even suggested a Jewish/ Klezma-like parade through the village!    
  • #PsalmQuest 20 Distracted Devotions (WQ3) Distracted Devotions for Wind Quintet by Stephen P Brown“Distracted Devotions (WQ3)″ is my third Wind Quintet, and written in two parts. Each part contains a prayer request, (for justice and righteousness), an affirmation of evil, and hope in fellowship and righteousness. Usually used as a morning prayer, Psalm 5 clearly contains the difficulties of concentrating and staying on task. Today we might label this ...
  • #PsalmQuest 19 Fire Ice and Stormy Winds Fire Ice and Stormy Winds for Bass Clarinet Piccolo Trumpet and Piano by Stephen P Brown“Fire, Ice and Stormy Winds″ is written in Sonata Form for the Atlanta Chamber Players. Based on just one verse from Psalm 148, with the original Greek meaning “ice” although many translations use “hail” or “snow.”    
  • #PsalmQuest 18 PRAISE! Praise! for Choir and Piano by Stephen P Brown“PRAISE!″ is a short fanfare to open a concert. Best performed from a balcony or out of sight if piano placement permits. Simple, to the point, and grand, the 8 vocal parts intertwine and make their declaration as they surround a gentle and persuasive middle section.    
  • #PsalmQuest 17 Mirror 3 Mirror 3 for two Violins by Stephen P Brown“Mirror 3″ was written for two violins to help utilize instruments in a chamber music concert program. The three different sections reflect the psalm’s topics regarding deliverance, prayer and trust, and show off the violinist’s arpeggio skills. (In other words, none of those hours of practice go to waste!)    
  • #PsalmQuest 16 The Apple Of The Eye The Apple Of The Eye for Clarinet Violin Cello by Stephen P Brown“The Apple Of The Eye″ is in six sections: A: Prayer of Righteous Person (Theme A) B: Prayer for Protection (Theme B) C: The Wicked (Theme C) D: Prayer for Deliverance (Theme B) E: The Wicked (Theme C) F: Hope in righteousness (Theme A) The piece employs the “Golden Ratio” four times in the relationship between Theme A + Theme B to Theme A, then ...
  • #PsalmQuest 15 Shadow Of Your Wings Shadow Of Your Wings for Choir and Piano by Stephen P Brown“Shadow Of Your Wings” uses the King James Bible text, and is in four “ABBA” sections: A – Nature of the wicked B – Wisdom of God – love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice B – Joys of Wisdom – abundance, house, feast, fountain, river, light, life A – Protection from Evil    
  • #PsalmQuest 14 Restoration Restoration for Bass Clarinet and Strings by Stephen P BrownA local performer reached out to me and said “We should work together!” He was very generous in sharing what a good reputation I have amongst some of his colleagues, so with my esteem duly stroked I said, “Sure!” Turns out Calvin Falwell is a Bass Clarinet geek. Geeks are cool these days, so that is ...
  • #PsalmQuest 13 He With Tender Mercy He With Tender Mercy for Voice and Piano by Stephen P BrownLyrics by Adam Miller Bless The Lord, o my soul, and bless His holy name Forget not His benefits, because He knows our frame Remembering we are dust, and all our days are like grass Like a flower in the field, we flourish and we pass Who forgives my iniquities? The Lord, The Lord! Who heals all my disease? The Lord, ...
  • #PsalmQuest 12 String Quartet 2 String Quintet 2 by Stephen P BrownString Quartet 2 is structured in a similar way to Psalm 97, and is based on the meanings of some of the names of God: Movement I – Yahweh/ Righteousness (man’s or God’s?) Movement II – Adonai/ Justice (demanded by man, or commanded by God?) Movement III – Elyon/ Judgment (our own, or God’s?) Interestingly, each movement contains some ...
  • #PsalmQuest 11 Perspective Perspective for Bass Clarinet and Drum Kit by Stephen P BrownComplimentary and contrasting thematic material, 60 seconds time limit, plus an unexpected coda. Specifically written for Vox Novus composer program as requested by Calvin Falwell and Robert McCormick. Premiered in New York City, March 2014.  
  • #PsalmQuest 10 My Savior My Savior for Voice and Ensemble by Stephen P BrownMarch-like, clap-along, energetic declarations and a “Shout to the Lord!” There are parts available for typical church band (see score sample page below) as well as just a voice and piano reductions.    
  • #PsalmQuest 9 Mirror 2 Mirror 2 for solo Harp by Stephen P Brown “Mirror 2” is structured in a similar way to Psalm 38: A – Prayer for reconciliation B – Pain of Anguish C – Prayer for vindication B – Pain of injustice A – Prayer for reconciliation Notice how the structure mirrors itself – ABCBA, hence the title. It’s not a new musical Form or official way to construct a piece of ...
  • #PsalmQuest 8 Sonata 2 Sonata 2 for Viola Marimba and Piano by Stephen P Brown “Sonata 2” is written for the most unusual combination of instruments which I believe you will find quite conducive to chamber music. The piece is structured according to the traditional Sonata Form formula with contrasting themes (click here to see why), a development section, and after a recapitulation a little coda. This is a great piece ...
  • #PsalmQuest 7 Bagetelle for Violin Bagatelle for solo Violin by Stephen P Brown “Bagatelle for Violin” is based on Psalm 112, and is structured in a similar way (with a little alteration – I swapped the first and last sections!): A – Curse on the longings of the wicked B – Blessings of righteousness C – Blessings in adversity B – Blessings of being gracious and compassionate C – Blessings in adversity B – ...
  • #PsalmQuest 6 Warrior Peace Warrior Peace for Chamber Orchestra Non-Strings by Stephen P Brown This piece took over a month to write (almost double its allocated project time) but seems to be well-worth it. There are six sections in accordance with Psalm 144, which this composition is based on. There are flute and timpani solos and, interestingly, is written for a normal chamber orchestra except the string players! I like ...
  • #PsalmQuest 5 Rescue Me Recover Me Rescue Me for Choir and Piano by Stephen P Brown “Rescue Me, Recover Me”  started out as a work in the English choir tradition, but it certainly didn’t end up that way! Instead, this piece transfigured itself into a verse-chorus format with vocalist and choir backing. Just different, is all. (And that’s one of the joys of the creative process!)    
  • #PsalmQuest 4 Wind Quintet 2 Wind Quintet 2 by Stephen P Brown “Wind Quintet 2″ is structured in a similar way as Psalm 91: An invitation (the Theme) and 8 variations with the Theme providing an intermission and closing statement. The Theme is built from excerpts of the Psalm’s text: v2 “My refuge and my fortress: my God; in whom I trust,” and v16 “With long life I will ...
  • #PsalmQuest 3 Covered Covered for solo piano by Stephen P Brown   “Covered” is one of my most endearing pieces yet. Composed for solo piano the piece follows the same structure as its psalm – after an introduction, Section A reflects a Prayer for righteousness, followed by a story of life experience (B) and protection (C). In the middle, Section D is God’s voice promising Wisdom, followed ...
  • #PsalmQuest 2 A Brass Mirror A Brass Mirror for Horn, Euphonium and Tuba by Stephen P Brown    “A Brass Mirror” is structured in a similar way: After an introduction there is a Prayer for righteousness (let’s call that section A), then a Lament (B), some petitions (variation of B) and finally the Prayer again (a slight variation of A). I had thought about writing this piece in the style of a disco beat, based ...
  • #PsalmQuest 1 Energy, Strength, Joy and Light Energy Strength Joy and Light for Soprano Violin and Viola by Stephen P Brown “Energy, Strength, Joy & Light” contains characteristics of the poem’s descriptive text. This piece’s structure (verse1, v2, chorus, v3, c, v4, c, c)  includes four verses interspersed and ending with a chorus based on the prayer at the end of the psalm. The soprano part includes both text and scat/ improvised sounds.