Psalm 23

23A: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Performance Notes:

  • The following article is written by Alfred V. Fedak and taken from Reformed Worship.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is rightfully considered the father of English hymnody. Psalm 23 is the best known and best loved of all the psalms. And RESIGNATION, a nineteenth-century tune from southern Appalachia, is one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies ever composed. All three—poet, psalm, and music—unite in this hymn to give us a new vision of the providence of God.

Isaac Watts, the English Congregational minister, theologian, and writer, was a prolific hymnodist who penned about six hundred sacred songs, forever changing the course of English-language hymnody. Apparently he began writing hymns in his youth, when one day, returning home from church and complaining about the poor quality of the metrical psalms that had been sung at that morning's worship, he was challenged by his father to "Try… to produce something better." He did, and Watts's hymns still appear in every hymnal. (The Psalter Hymnal includes 10; Rejoice in the Lord, 33!)

"My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" dates from Watts's 1719 collection, Psalms of David, and concludes with his remarkable interpretation of the psalm's last verse: "No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home."

The tune RESIGNATION, by an unknown composer, first appeared in the 1835 hymnbook Southern Harmony, a collection of church music from the rural American south. The melody is disarmingly simple. Like much folk music, it is entirely pentatonic—that is, it uses only a five-note scale analogous to the black keys on the piano. The formal pattern of the tune is AA-BA; the first, second, and final phrases are identical. And every phrase comes to rest on the tonic, or key-note. For all this simplicity, RESIGNATION is still an eloquent piece of music. It is the perfect vehicle to carry Watts's paraphrase straight to the heart.

Perhaps the most effective way to introduce this hymn is also the most authentic to the spirit and history of the music. Have a soloist—a person with a clear, pleasant, natural voice—sing the first stanza simply and directly, without accompaniment. On stanza 2, the choir may sing in unison, still unaccompanied. By stanza 3, the congregation will want to join in. For those of us who play and hear hymns on the organ week after week, unaccompanied unison hymn singing can be a powerfully moving experience.

When you do perform this hymn with accompaniment, though, the organist or pianist should take special care to play the spirit of the words. A clean legato is best here; try not to let the jagged bass line "bump." When the congregation is comfortable with the hymn, you may wish to try the alternate free harmonization that is included with this article. It is meant to be played on the final stanza.

There are many choral settings of "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." Probably the best known is the highly recommended setting by the late Virgil Thomson (Belwin-Mills), available in several voicings (again, be sure to check the texts and adapt where necessary.)

Several attractive organ settings are also available. Gilbert Martin's prelude in Hammer's second Bristol Collection of 1975, and David Schack's setting in his Augsburg publication Preludes on Ten Hymntunes are listed in the Ringerwole bibliography. Besides these, Belwin-Mills publishes New Jersey composer Louie White's Reflections on Southern Hymntunes, which includes a lovely canonic arrangement, and Carl Schalk has a prelude on RESIGNATION in volume 36 of the Concordia Hymn Prelude Series . Enterprising organists will locate still more.

Many handbell arrangements also exist for choirs who wish to ring the hymn. Look for pieces by Dick Averre (Presser), Douglas Wagner (Sacred Music Press), David Schwoebel (Lorenz, with C instrument), and even an arrangement for handbell solo by Wall (published by Jeffers), complete with accompaniment cassette!

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Ps. 23:1-3
st. 2 = Ps. 23:4-5
st. 3 = Ps. 23:6

Psalm 23 has inspired numerous paraphrases and hymn texts, including this text by Isaac Watts. Watts included it in his large 1719 collection of psalm paraphrases, The Psalms of David Imitated.

Tune Information:

RESIGNATION is another of the anonymous tunes from the shape-note hymnal tradition in the Southern United States; William Walker included it in his Southern Harmony (1835) set to Watts' text. That association of text and tune has been maintained in many hymnals and anthems, including a famous choral setting by Virgil Thompson.

Like so many American folk tunes, RESIGNATION is pentatonic. This rounded bar form tune (AABA) has a sturdy harmonization. Sing in unison or harmony.

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • The following are alternative accompaniments for this tune, RESIGNATION/CONSOLATION

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
  • Fedak, Alfred V. 25 More Harmonizations. Selah 160-729 [1998]

Copyright Information

  • Words: Isaac Watts (1674-1748), 1719, alt., P.D.
  • Music (RESIGNATION 8.6.8.6 D): W. Walker’s Southern Harmony, 1835; harm. Hymnal for Colleges and Schools, 1956, © 1956 Yale University Press
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words: The Words are in the Public Domain. You do not need copyright permission to reprint the Words.
    • Music: please contact the copyright holder, Yale University Press.

23B: The LORD, My Shepherd, Rules My Life

 Performance Notes:

Tune Information:

CRlMOND was first published in The Northern Psalter (1872), where the tune was attributed to David Grant (b. Aberdeen, Scotland, 1833; d. Lewisham, London, England, 1893), who arranged many of the tunes in that collection. However, in 1911 Anna B. Irvine claimed that CRIMOND had been composed by her sister, Jessie Seymour Irvine (b. Dunnottar, Kincardineshire, Scotland, 1836; d. Aberdeen, Scotland, 1887), who had given it to Grant to be harmonized. Irvine's authorship is generally accepted today. Little is known of Irvine's life except that she was the daughter of an Anglican minister and lived in her parents' home for much of her life.

CRIMOND became very popular after it was used at the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947. Named after the town of Crimond in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the tune is considered by many to be among the finest of all Scottish psalm tunes.

David Grant composed the harmonization. A tobacco shop merchant by trade, Grant was an amateur musician. He composed music for bands, arranged tunes for The Northern Psalter (1872), and served as precentor of the Footdee Church in Aberdeen.

The descant composed by William Baird Ross (b. Montrose, Scotland, 1871; d. Edin¬burgh, Scotland, 1950) also gained popularity from royal use in 1947. Educated at Queen's College in Oxford, Ross became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. He was an educator and an organist in Montrose, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Stirling in Scotland.

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • The following are alternative accompaniments for this tune, CRIMOND.

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Archer, Malcolm. After the Last Verse. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 502 6 [1995]
  • Mawby, Colin. Hymns for Occasions. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0-86209-568-9 [1994]
  • Rawsthorne, Noel. 200 Last Verses. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 189 6 [1991]
  • Wilkinson, John T. One Hundred and Four Descants for “The Hymn Book”. enThusia [1980]

Alternative harmonization for Piano:

  • Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008] (√; E-M; with organ)

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Christopher Idle © 1982 The Jubilate Group, admin. Hope Publishing Company
  • Music (CRIMOND 8.6.8.6): Jessie Seymour Irvine, 1872; harm. David Grant, 1872; desc. W. Baird Ross (18711950), P.D.
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words:permitted with a license from OneLicense.net or a CCLI License.
    • Music: The Music is in the Public Domain. You do not need copyright permission to reprint the Music.

23C: The LORD’s My Shepherd

Performance Notes:

Tune Information:

BROTHER JAMES' AIR was composed by James Leith Macbeth Bain (b. Scotland, c. 1840; d. Liverpool, England, 1925), the healer, mystic, and poet known simply as Brother James. The tune was first published in his volume The great peace: being a New Year's greeting ... (1915). Born in a devout Christian home, Bain came to doubt the faith but later regained a mystical belief with the aid of the Christo Theosophic Society. He founded the Brotherhood of Healers, and he and his fellow healers often sang to their patients during healing sessions. In the latter years of his life he worked among the poor in the slums of Liverpool. He published a book on healing entitled The Brotherhood of Healers ... (1906).

This well-loved tune is in bar form (AAB) with an unusual final phrase that rises to a high tonic cadence. Ideally suited to part singing, the harmonization is adapted from the popular arrangement by Gordon Jacob (b. Norwood, near London, England, 1895; d. Saffron Walden, Essex, England, 1984) published in 1934, which was also titled "Brother James' Air."

Jacob studied at Dulwich College and the Royal College of Music and received his doctorate in music from London University in 1935. He taught composition at the Royal College of Music from 1926 to 1966 and was respected both as a fine teacher and as a composer of orchestral, chamber, and choral music and film scores. Included in his publications are Orchestral Technique (1931) and The Composer and His Art (1960).

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • The following are alternative accompaniments for this tune, BROTHER JAMES’ AIR.

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Archer, Malcolm. After the Last Verse. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 502 6 [1995]
  • Mawby, Colin. Hymns for Occasions. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0-86209-568-9 [1994]
  • Rawsthorne, Noel. 200 Last Verses. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 189 6 [1991]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Helgen, John. Let It Rip! At the Piano. vol. 2 Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

Copyright Information:

  • Words: English, Scottish Psalter, 1650, P.D.; Spanish, tr. Federico J. Pagura; Korean tr. The United Methodist Korean Hymnal Committee © 2001 The United Methodist Publishing House, admin. The Copyright Company
  • Music (BROTHER JAMES' AIR 8.6.8.6.8.6): J. L. Macbeth Bain (1840-1925); harm. Gordon Jacob (1895-1984). Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press.
  • Reprint Information:
    • English Words: The English Words are in Public Domain. You do not need copyright permission to reprint the English.
    • Korean Words: permitted with a CCLI License.
    • Music: permitted with a license from OneLicense.net or a CCLI License.

23D: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Performance Notes:

  • The following article is written by Carl P. Daw, Jr and taken from Reformed Worship.

John Calvin described Psalm 23 as notable for its tone of thanksgiving and for its lack of prayers for relief from miseries. Unlike worldly people, who are apt to
become self-centered when things are going their way, David here “delights himself in God” and, acknowledging that his present “state of tranquility . . . is owing to the goodness of God,” expresses both trust in God’s continuing providence and the desire to “employ himself in [the] pure worship [of God].” (John Calvin,
Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson). While there is much insight in Calvin’s observations, it is remarkable how little of the familiar and memorable pastoral imagery of the psalm they call to mind.

A Text with Two Tunes

 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” a text by Sir Henry William Baker (1821-1877), first appeared in the 1868 Appendix prepared for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), where it was paired with the tune DOMINUS REGIT ME by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). As psalm paraphrases go, it is more in the manner of Martin Luther (1483-1546) or Isaac Watts (1674-1748) than that of the Genevan Psalter, because it introduces Christological interpretations that were avoided in Reformed tradition. In many ways, it conflates the shepherd psalm with various “Good Shepherd” passages in the New Testament such John 10:11-18, yet this very mingling of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures may be one source of its strength and appeal. Given the frequency with which Good Shepherd stained-glass windows, stone and wood carvings, paintings, Sunday school lithographs, and other visual representations of that theme have been afforded in churches on both sides of the Atlantic, it is not surprising that this articulate and vivid paraphrase would have gained popularity.

Turning to the text itself, we note immediately that the usual way of naming God (“the Lord”) has been replaced with a nonbiblical yet immediately comprehensible allegorical title, “the King of Love” (see sidebar at right). This unfamiliar opening and the inversion in the first line (“my shepherd is”) prepare the singer for a text that is intentionally—even self-consciously—allusive and aesthetic. This perception of the text is reinforced by the archaic verb forms (“leadeth,” “feedeth”) and the Latinate diction (“verdant,” “celestial”) in the second stanza. The third stanza intensifies the Christological overtones of this paraphrase with allusions not only to the Good Shepherd passage noted earlier but also to Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:4-7; cf. Matthew 18:12-14). The fourth stanza follows the biblical shift from third person to second person, but adds to the images of the shepherd’s rod and staff the suggestion of a processional cross familiar to many nineteen-century Anglican congregations. There is a similar churchy slant in the fifth stanza, where the psalter’s “oil” takes on sacramental tones by being called “unction,” and the usual English translation “cup” becomes a comparably Latinate and ecclesiastical “chalice.” As a result, the reference to God’s “house” in the final line of the sixth stanza does not suggest the Temple in Jerusalem so much as it does the church building in which the hymn is being sung.

Because the compilers of the 1906 English Hymnal were denied permission to use Dykes’s original tune (see sidebar, below), musical editor Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) turned to a folk tune that his former teacher Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) had recently edited for a collection of Irish music (A Complete Collection of Irish Music as noted by George Petri (London, 1902-1905); ST. COLUMBA is no. 1043). The two most notable improvements Vaughan Williams made in the hymn tune known as ST. COLUMBA were the lengthening of the second and fourth lines to extend the Common Meter tune to 8787 in order to accommodate Baker’s text—this being their first appearance together—and the use of a triplet (rather than an eighth and two sixteenths) in the sixth measure.

When DOMINUS REGIT ME and ST. COLUMBA are put side by side, they offer dissimilar but complementary perspectives on Baker’s text. Dykes’s tune is more cerebral and straightforward. Its 4/4 rhythm, limited melisma [use of multiple notes on one syllable], and predominantly even note values give it a strong processional and declarative tone, which is warmed by occasional patches of running sixths between the soprano and tenor voices. The 3/4 Irish melody, on the other hand, reinforces the experiential, affective, and narrative elements of the text and accentuates the iambic stresses of the text. It can also be argued that the more compact hexatonic [six-note] melody conveys greater intensity than the use of the full octave in the other tune. Like theology done “from above” and “from below,” the two tunes provide both a critique and an enhancement of each other.

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • The following are alternative accompaniments for this tune, ST. COLUMBA

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Archer, Malcolm. After the Last Verse. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 502 6 [1995]
  • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
  • Cassler, G. Winston. Organ Descants for Selected Hymns. Augsburg 11-9304 [1972]
  • Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ. vol. 2 CPH 97-6851 [2000]
  • MacNutt, Walter. The Waterloo Book of Hymns with Descants. Waterloo [1973]
  • Mawby, Colin.  Hymns for Occasions. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0-86209-568-9 [1994]
  • Noble, T. Tertius. Fifty Free Organ Accompaniments to Well-Known Hymn Tunes. J. Fischer 8430 [1949]
  • Rawsthorne, Noel. 200 Last Verses. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 189 6 [1991]
  • Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford ISBN 0 19 323210 3 [1937]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Gervais, Pam. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Henry Williams Baker, 1868, P.D.
  • Music (ST. COLUMBA 8.7.8.7): Ancient Irish melody, P.D.
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words and Music: Both are in the Public Domain. You do not need copyright permission to reprint this song.

23E: Such Perfect Love My Shepherd Shows

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Henry Williams Baker, 1868, alt., P.D.
  • Music (DOMINUS REGIT ME 8.7.8.7): John B. Dykes (1823-1876), 1868, P.D.
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words and Music: Both are in the Public Domain. You do not need copyright permission to reprint this song.

23F: The Lord’s My Shepherd

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Psalm 23:1-6; 36:8; 56:3
  • Music: Stuart Townend © 1996 ThankYou Music, admin. by worshiptogether.com songs/EMI CMG Publishing, excl. UK and Europe, admin. by KingswayMusic/www.kingswaysongs.com
  • Reprint Information:

23G: A Responsorial Setting: Shepherd Me, O God

For further notes, see 23H: Shepherd Me, O God.

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Marty Haugen (b. 1950) © 1986 GIA Publications, Inc.
  • Music (SHEPHERD ME refrain): Marty Haugen (b. 1950) © 1986 GIA Publications, Inc.
  • Psalm Text: from Evangelical Lutheran Worship © 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, admin. Augsburg Fortress Publishers
  • Tone: © 2011 Faith Alive Christian Resources
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words and Music: permitted with a license from OneLicense.net.
    • When reprinting the Psalm Text and Tone, please use the correct copyright line. Faith Alive Christian Resources gives you permission to reprint the Tone for use in a worship setting.

23H: Shepherd Me, O God

Performance Notes:

  • For more information about this song, refer to the Leader’s Edition of Sing! A New Creation.
  • For performance notes on this song, see page 1079 of Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship.

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
  • Purchase an octavo arrangement or a recording of this song that is written by Marty Haugen and published by GIA Publications, Inc.
  • The following are alternative acompaniments for this tune, DOMINUS REGIT ME.

Alternative Harmonization for Organ and Descant Resources:

  • Archer, Malcolm. After the Last Verse. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 502 6 [1995]
  • Mawby, Colin.  Hymns for Occasions. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0-86209-568-9 [1994]
  • McKinney, Howard D. Preludes for Fifty-Five Well-Known Hymn Tunes. J. Fischer 9770 [1967]
  • Noble, T. Tertius. Fifty Free Organ Accompaniments to Well-Known Hymn Tunes. J. Fischer 8430 [1949]
  • Powell, Robert J. Free Hymn Accompaniments. Abingdon APM-513 [1979]
  • Rawsthorne, Noel. 200 Last Verses. Kevin Mayhew ISBN 0 86209 189 6 [1991]
  • Wilkinson, John T. One Hundred and Four Descants for “The Hymn Book”. enThusia [1980]
  • Winn, Cyril. 41 Descants to Familiar Hymn Tunes. Oxford [1961]

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Marty Haugen (b. 1950) © 1986 GIA Publications, Inc.
  • Music (SHEPHERD ME): Marty Haugen (b. 1950) © 1986 GIA Publications, Inc.
  • Reprint Information:

23I: El Señor es mi pastor/My Shepherd Is the LORD

Performance Notes:

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Ps. 23:1-2
st. 2 = Ps. 23:3-4
st. 3 = Ps. 23:5

Ricardo Villarreal composed the text and tune of this setting of Psalm 23, including only the first five (not all six) verses of Psalm 23 as well as a final doxology stanza. The Spanish text and music were published with a harmonization by Delbert Asay in an undated songbook (c. 1975) entitled Nuevas Canciones Cristianas (New Christian Songs), published by Centro de Musica de la Iglesia Evangelica Metodista in Uruguay. It was first published in the United States in Celebremos II, a collection of Hispanic songs with English translations provided by a task force of United Methodist Hispanic congregations. The English translation was revised for the Psalter Hymnal by the revision committee.

Tune Information:

No information is available about Villarreal, but he may have been known to Delbert A. Asay (20th c.), who served the United Methodist Church for many years as a music missionary in Uruguay and Mexico. Asay's songs and arrangements have appeared in several Hispanic songbooks, including Nuevas Canciones Cristianas, published in Uruguay (1975).

The name PASTOR (which means "shepherd") was assigned to this tune in the Psalter Hymnal. The tune consists of an antiphon (refrain) and stanzas of two identical lines that in themselves contain a phrase repeated at a lower pitch. The form of the tune exhibits similarities to the Bolivian mestizo huayno dance. Try singing the music antiphonally by dividing each stanza into either two or four segments and having everyone join in on the refrain.

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Ricardo Villarreal, 1975; tr. Psalter Hymnal, 1987, © 1987 Faith Alive Christian Resources
  • Music (PASTOR): Ricardo Villarreal, 1975; harm. Delbert Asay, 1975
  • Reprint Information:

23J: The God of Love My Shepherd Is

Other Resources:

Copyright Information:

  • Words: George Herbert (1593-1633), P.D.
  • Music (RIDGEMOOR 8.6.8.6): Roy Hopp, 1992, © 1992 Selah Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Reprint Information:
    • Words: The Words are in the Public Domain. You do not need permission to reprint the Words.
    • Music: permitted with a license from OneLicense.net or a CCLI License.

23K: The Lord Is My Shepherd

Other Resources:

  • Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.

Copyright Information:

  • Words: Psalm 23:1-2
  • Music: Folk melody; arr. Charlotte Larsen, 1992, © 1994 Faith Alive Christian Resources
  • Reprint Information: