The liturgical theme for the fourth Sunday of Easter is always “the Good Shepherd” – who is of course Jesus. There are many references in the gospels of Jesus likening himself to the shepherd of a flock (in which we are the sheep), and of course there is the famous parable of the Lost Sheep. On this Sunday the readings and hymns take up the theme of shepherds, sheep and loving care of others. Choir Leaders and Music Directors also choose anthems with this theme, and this year is no different.
Singing with the Manchester Chorale is a privilege. It is a group made up of many professional musicians, highly trained singers, directors of other choirs, and even a couple of composers. One of the composers, Chris O’Hara, sings bass and sits just behind me. We have performed a number of his compositions over the years, including “Love Leadeth Me”, written in 2016. The text is drawn from the Scottish Psalter, and is based on Psalm 23:
The Lord’s my shepherd I’ll not want: Love makes me down to lie in pastures green; Love leadeth me the quiet waters by.
My soul Love doth restore again and me to walk doth make within the paths of righteousness e’en for it’s own name’s sake.
Yea though I walk through death’s dark vale yet will I fear no ill; For thou art with me and thy rod and staff me comfort still.
My table thou hast furnished in presence of my foes; My head thou dost with oil anoint and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me, and in God’s house for evermore my dwelling place shall be.
This is perfect for Good Shepherd Sunday. The opening of psalm 23 is clear: Jesus is my shepherd, so I shall lack nothing.
The Manchester Chorale performed this in the summer of 2017 at St Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre, along with the Belgium choir Koor Acantus. We had visited them in Antwerp the previous autumn, and this was their return visit to Manchester. It was a fabulous concert, full of top quality music, expertly sung. As is so often the case these days, many members of the audience recorded bootleg videos, and here is one: https://youtu.be/M6LB8jzZgcg
Although scored for 4-part harmony, Maggie’s Music Makers tackled this piece in 2019. We have no bass singers, but two of our ladies can sing tenor, and the others are all sopranos and altos, so it was worth a try. We didn’t get around to singing it that year, and in 2020 of course, choral singing was impossible. However, we are now back singing together in church rather than online, and with just two rehearsals before performance day, decided to stick with singing the melody throughout. Did you hear it? I think they did very well.