Music for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost — Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Shepherd will supply my need – Psalm 23, para. Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Music: Walker’s Southern Harmony, arr. Virgil Thomson (1896-1989).


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In the beginning of the eighteenth century, the first rays of the dawn of English hymnody had already appeared, but it was in the work of Isaac Watts that it reached full expression. Watts was convinced that Christian song should not be forced to maintain a strict adherence to literal scripture, but that it should express the thoughts and feelings of those who sang, rather than merely relate the experiences and circumstances of the Old Testament psalm writers. It was out of this conviction that Watts’ enormous output of hymn writing was born, including this paraphrase of Psalm 23. Watts’ text happens to be an apt commentary on today’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 55:1-5), the Gospel (Matthew 14:13-21), and finds kinship with today’s Psalm (145:8-9, 14-21).

Although this hymn is not found in either of our hymnals, it is included in The Hymnal 1982 of The Episcopal Church USA, where it is paired with RESIGNATION, a nineteenth-century tune from southern Appalachia, surely one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies ever composed. There are many choral settings of this text and tune; this one by the American composer Virgil Thomson is probably the best known.


My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
in pastures fresh he makes me feed,
beside the living stream.

He brings my wandering spirit back
when I forsake his ways;
he leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
in paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
thy presence is my stay;
a word of thy supporting breath
drives all my fears away.

Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
doth still my table spread,
my cup with blessings overflows,
thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
attend me all my days:
O may thy house be mine abode,
and all my work be praise!

There would I find a settled rest,
while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest,
but like a child at home.


The eyes of all wait upon thee – Jean Berger (1909-2002)


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Born to a Jewish family in Hamm, Germany, a modest city in Westphalia, and originally named Arthur Schlossberg, Berger’s academic music studies centered initially around musicology, which he pursued at the Universities of Vienna and Heidelberg. As a Jew visible in a German cultural institution during the doomed waning days of the Weimar democracy, the young Schlossberg was almost instantly a target of local Nazi party followers. In 1933 Schlossberg emigrated to Paris to study composition with Louis Aubert; in Paris he took the French name Jean Berger. Early in the Second World War, he travelled to the United States as a piano accompanist, and stayed for the rest of his life, enjoying a distinguished career as an academic and composer, writing music imbued with the idioms of his adopted land. He has always been most widely associated with two highly successful choral pieces: Brazilian Psalm, perhaps his most recognized work, and The eyes of all wait upon thee. The text of the latter is drawn from Psalm 145:16-17, our psalm for today. The St James choir last sang this piece at the celebration of Harvest Thanksgiving in 2015.


The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.

Thou openest thine hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.


Gerald Harder