Lost Music: Gentle Shepherd

Gentle ShepherdThis isn’t really a “lost” piece for me, as I didn’t ever play it until this past week in rehearsal with my wife and at Mass yesterday. St Meinrad Archabbey published liturgical music for a time. Tobias Colgan was the most prolific of their composers, and “Gentle Shepherd” is another “child” of the 70s.

The psalm on the docket for this weekend is the 23rd, and my spouse wanted to do this song. Preparation or Communion? I asked. Nope. During the Liturgy of the Word, she said (while expressing disapproval for the psalm I had programmed.) Brother Colgan’s refrain sings, “O Jesus, gentle Shepherd and living bread: feed us, guide us to the land of everlasting life.”

That was a problem, however nice the setting is and however lovely my wife’s rendition. I adapted the composer’s original to fit the Lectionary’s offering. The verses are a close paraphrase–so I left them as is.

As for the composer’s original intent, I approve. It’s not unique to adapt Psalm 23 for Communion. Indeed, it’s a frequent inhabitant of the Communion Proper.

In 1984, OCP Publications dropped the song into their second “all-star” collection of pieces  from various composers that were in their annual Music Issue. Some of these songs originated from different publishers. Eventually, “Gentle Shepherd” was retired from use. (I had to search through 2002 accompaniment books to find a copy.)

I was really impressed with the piece. I don’t ever recall experiencing it at liturgy before. There are so many settings of Psalm 23–who can track more than a fraction of them? This one is near the top of my list now. The melody is nice, though a bit tricky with the long notes and inflections. No big jumps, as you might expect from monastic life. I played around with the piano accompaniment a bit from the lead sheet. The original is written for guitar, and I added some altered harmonization (third inversion minor seventh chords leading out each verse rather than the suspended 4th). Then my wife asked me to play it on guitar. I don’t get to do that too often these days, so I consented.

Tobias Colgan is hardly a lost figure in post-conciliar liturgical music. But I was glad for the encounter with him this week.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgical Music. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s