The King of Love My Shepherd Is — brass quintet

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“The King of Love My Shepherd Is” is a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 23, written by the Anglican cleric and hymn-writer Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877) for the second edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern (1868), of which he was editor as well as contributor. Baker’s hymn has been described as perhaps the most beautiful of the many versions of the beloved psalm, and it has been said that the author’s own last words before dying were the third stanza:

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

Originally, the hymn was paired with the tune DOMINUS REGIT ME, written by Baker’s friend John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876) specifically for Baker’s text. Later, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) sought to republish the hymn in The English Hymnal (1906), of which he was editor, and was denied the right to use Dykes’s tune. He then paired Baker’s text with his own arrangement of an Irish traditional air, ST. COLUMBA.

It is on ST. COLUMBA that this arrangement for brass quintet is based. Following a short introduction, the tune is presented three times: first, by trumpets in a modal melodic/harmonic fashion; next, by low brass trio evoking Vaughan Williams’ familiar harmonization; and finally, in a broad, full presentation by the entire ensemble, followed by a quiet, peaceful ending.

©2019 Todd Marchand / Con Spirito Music

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