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[Recipient of “Award of Merit” in the 2012 Church Music Submission, Anthem category]
There is a lot of background information behind this song. I condensed it here but can provide more detail, if interested.
- The main accompaniment (piano or harp) is simple enough that it could be played on a diatonic (having no accidentals) hand-harp. It is meant to have somewhat of a “watching over you” feel.
- There is a considerable amount of musical “word-painting” in the song, sometimes in the vocal parts, and sometimes in the accompaniments. Word-painting is a technique in which the music reflects the literal meaning of the text. I won’t give away all of the instances in case you want to try to find them, but the most obvious one is probably what the music does with the word “astray” – it goes astray from the established pattern.
- “Protects with the rod” can imply physical protection from dangerous situations (in the way that a shepherd could use a rod against predators); inspiration on how to avoid these situations; and protection by following the "iron rod", which is the "word of God" (the scriptures and words of the prophets).
- “Guides with His staff” can imply being “nudged” or directed or led like how a shepherd uses a wood staff, and “His staff” can also be His “staff of people” who have been placed in a position to help us. Spencer W. Kimball said, “The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us; but it is usually through another person that he meets our needs”. We need to remember that and recognize when that is happening for us or when we are needed for someone else.
- “Stumble in weakness” is not just making mistakes, but we can stumble in weakness because of the burdens we are carrying which could include grief, sorrows, trials, injury, sickness, disease, or loneliness.
- “Wander astray” need not imply malicious intent. Sometimes we just aren’t paying close enough attention to our surroundings and what we are doing and then find ourselves distanced or separated from where we need to be.
- All of this leads to what I think is a special role of this song – to let people know that even though people are essentially numberless (“unnumbered”), we are known and loved individually
A recording is playable with the video above (Choir: Anaheim East Chorale; Director: Larry Lowder; Piano: Beth Lillywhite; Organ: Darla Fulk).
The 8.5"x11" sheet music (4 pages - choir parts only and no artwork to save paper and ink) is available for free download below. The complete 8-page booklet (6.875"x10.5" SATB and piano and optional organ) may be purchased through the "Add to Cart" button above to the right. To purchase more than one copy, change the quantity and click "Update" after clicking the "Add to Cart" button. Shipping & handling is calculated at the cart page based on location. USPS Priority Mail may be specified at checkout. If you download the free choir part and do not purchase the complete score, I can e-mail the accompaniment(s) if you contact me and let me know your plans for the song. Additionally, I have an arrangement available for piano plus harp.
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