My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

“My shepherd will supply my need” are the opening words of Isaac Watts’ (1674-1748) paraphrase of the twenty-third Psalm, published in his collection, The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, and Apply’d to the Christian State and Worship (1719).

Watts’ text may be sung to any number of tunes fitting the meter, but it is most often associated with “Resignation,” an American folk melody that first appeared in the shape-note hymn tune collection, Southern Harmony, in 1835. Like many folk tunes it is pentatonic, including notes 1-2-3-5-6 of the major scale, and this simplicity of melody lends itself to rich harmonization.

In this arrangement, an introduction to each of two verses contains melodic and harmonic intervals of parallel fourths and fifths as well as thirds, in imitation of the sound of shape-note singing’s parallel harmony. The first verse of the tune itself employs conventional diatonic harmony, while the second introduces some chromaticism. Throughout, the arrangement evokes reverence, peace and strength.

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba) — $12.99