Music for the Fourth Sunday of Easter — May 3, 2020
The King of Love My Shepherd Is – Text: Ps. 23; para. Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) / Music: Irish melody (Petrie Collection, 1902); arr. John Rutter
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday”. The appointed psalm is Psalm 23 regardless of the lectionary year and during the three-year cycle the Gospel reading is drawn from various portions of John 10, in each of which Jesus describes himself as a shepherd. This paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Henry Baker is perhaps more highly valued by many than “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, another beloved paraphrase of this most beloved psalm. The author himself must have prized it; it is said that when he died, the lines of the third stanza were on his lips. Above all, we have him to thank for that one word, “home”: it is the primary metaphor of the hymn, the nucleus that gives meaning to all else. The tune, ST COLUMBA, is an ancient Irish hymn melody named for the Celtic saint who was said to have carried the gospel from Ireland to Scotland. It is arranged in this rendition for choir and harp by John Rutter, who also conducts the Cambridge Singers. This hymn is found in The New English Hymnal (our green book) at 457.
THE King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
Thy unction, grace bestoweth:
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house for ever.
He Shall Feed His Flock (Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1 – 18a) – G. F. Handel (1685-1759)
Born the same year as Bach, in Halle, Germany, Handel nevertheless spent most of his career in Britain. Although he wrote a large number of instrumental works, he is known mainly for his Italian operas, oratorios (including Messiah, 1741), various anthems for church and royal festivities, and organ concertos. In the first part of the aria He shall feed his flock, the alto sings the text from Isaiah in F major. The soprano then takes up the same melody, now elevated by a fourth to B flat major, setting the words of Jesus, changed to the third person. Taken together, the words of this duet form a moving picture of the Saviour’s deeds as the Good Shepherd.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,
and he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
Come unto him all ye that labour,
come unto him that are heavy laden,
and he will give you rest.
Take his yoke upon you, and learn of him,
for he is meek and lowly of heart,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
Fantasy: Easter Hymn – William H. Harris (1883-1973)
Sir William Henry Harris was an English organist, choral conductor and composer who was organist at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor and a professor of organ and harmony at the Royal College of Music for much of his career. This piece is based on the hymn tune EASTER HYMN (“Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”), which is found at 203 in our Common Praise (blue) hymnal. A musical “fantasy” (fantasia) has its roots in improvisation; it seldom follows the textbook rules of any strict musical form. Harris’ jubilant setting relies heavily on sequence, the restatement of a motif at a higher or lower pitch. Listen for the entrance of that most English of organ stops, the Tuba, at around 1:29 in this rendition by Daniel Cook on the organ of Durham Cathedral. Next year – Deo volenti – listen for this piece played as a postlude at St. James’ during the Easter season.