Brother James’ Air

words adapted by Francis Rous from Psalm 23

tune by James Leith Macbeth Bain

arrangement by Peter Medhurst

The Lord is My Shepherd
, Psalm 23, is probably the most famous and best loved of all the Psalms of David and over the centuries has inspired a variety of transliterations including the set of verses by Francis Rous, which opens with almost the same text as the original psalm.  Rous’s excellent words have attracted many fine tunes – including Crimond – but it is James Leith Macbeth Bain’s (1840-1925) haunting melody known as Brother James’ Air  which has moved many a congregation up and down the country at weddings and funerals alike.

Brother James
first appeared in Bain’s collection The great peace: being a New Year’s greeting to our motherland and the nations at present in conflict and a welcome to them all to the feast of the great peace and was published – appropriately – in 1915, just after the start of the First World War. A very fine arrangement of words and melody was published  in 1934 by the composer and teacher Dr Gordon Jacob, and it is almost certainly this version that has helped popularise Bain’s splendid tune.

In 1993, I was commissioned by Dr John Hart to make an arrangement of the  Air to be sung at his marriage to Juliet Clarke in Warnham Church in West Sussex.  I decided to create a through-composed setting, where not only did the accompaniment and harmony reflect the changing sentiments of the words, but also, the melody was reworked in order to give a sense of drama as the narrative unfolds.

In this recording I am accompanied on the piano by Carol Anne Wells.  The performance was produced by Philip Salmon.

© Peter Medhurst 2012