The St David’s Singers premiered two new hymn-anthems of mine recently: ‘My Shepherd will supply my need’ and ‘Gabriel’s Message’.
The former is a simple setting of Isaac Watts’s paraphrase of Psalm 23 (the Psalm appointed for the day) to the melody used for it in the Hymnal 1982, ‘Resignation’; it highlights the folk origins of this tune by means of both the fiddle-like ornaments in the piano accompaniment and the harmonies conforming in the first stanza to the pentatonic scale of the melody.
The latter is a setting of John Mason Neale’s Annunciation carol ‘Gabriel’s message does away’ to the tune from Piae Cantiones, ‘Angelus emittitur’, for which he wrote it. The Hymnal 1982 had omitted three of Neale’s stanzas, two of which were both weaker and susceptible of misunderstanding; I rewrote these two stanzas as well as a line that had been subtly altered in the Hymnal, in an attempt to comprehend both Neale’s and the Hymnal’s meanings. I also included the other omitted stanza and retained the altered refrain, a close translation of the refrain of the Latin text associated with this tune. The text not only deals with the Annunciation (which fell the day before we sang it) but looks forward to Holy Week and Easter as it recounts a number of ironic reversals that take place via the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Our Lord, reminding us that all of these, and their material accoutrements, are ‘gates’ and ‘unfoldings’ of salvation.