Jonathan D. Campbell has arranged a medley, or three hymn tunes, associated with Christ the Good Shepherd, including BROTHER JAMES’ AIR, BRADBURY, and RESIGNATION. Arranged with accessibility in mind, the setting is scored for two-octave handbells. Several meter and tempo changes provide variety and contrast, while the optional addition of handchimes adds to the gentle nature of the piece. Level II.
The Good Shepherd
Campbell’s medley on three hymn tunes about Christ the Good Shepherd makes for a perfect handbell piece, either on Good Shepherd Sunday during the Easter season, or throughout the Church Year whenever Christ the Good Shepherd is mentioned.
Since this medley is scored for just two octaves of handbells, it requires fewer ringers and bells than a full four- or five-octave handbell piece, making it accessible, especially for smaller groups that may have less time to prepare. The option to add two octaves of handchimes provides built-in variety for how the piece could be played with larger groups.
Campbell includes three familiar tunes associated with Good Shepherd hymns: BROTHER JAMES’ AIR (“The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want”), BRADBURY (“Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us”), and RESIGNATION (“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”).
Each tune provides a slightly different character to the piece. BROTHER JAMES’ AIR is a popular English tune that soars and flows in accord with the character of Psalm 23, the scriptural source for the hymn “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want.”
Nineteenth-century American musician William Bradbury composed the tune BRADBURY, which is associated with the hymn “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.” The tune is gentler than the first and allows for a more serene and introspective middle section to the medley.
The piece ends with another nineteenth-century American tune, RESIGNATION. But unlike BRADBURY, it comes from the Southern Harmony tradition, a popular American folk genre. The original composer for the tune is unknown.
The three distinct tunes and characters are united in this medley by their connection to their corresponding hymn texts: texts on Christ as the Good Shepherd. An entire Sunday in the Church Year is set aside for this theme: either the Third or Fourth Sunday of Easter, depending on which lectionary a congregation uses.
But Christ as the Good Shepherd appears throughout the Church Year as well. In the Three-Year Lectionary this summer, the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (July 18) highlights Christ as the Shepherd of His flock, the Church.
The assigned Psalm for that day is Psalm 23, which informs all three hymns in this medley, and the Old Testament Reading from Jeremiah 23 recounts Jeremiah’s prophecy:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for My people: “You have scattered My flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1–4)
The Holy Gospel for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost recounts Jesus feeding the five thousand, since He had compassion on them and saw that they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).
Campbell’s The Good Shepherd would be a fitting piece for a small handbell group to play this month on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, since it is so closely tied with that day’s readings and Psalm. Even if your congregation hasn’t used its handbells in a while or doesn’t have a group that regularly meets, The Good Shepherd would be an accessible and lovely piece to begin with.
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