He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him
Music by GF Handel, from “The Messiah”
Arranged by Sally DeFord
During a “Messiah Sing-along” that I conducted some years ago, we chose to let the congregation sing this selection. As I listened to them, I realized that this song would make a gorgeous choral. (Why didn’t Handel do it? Probably because it wouldn’t include all those lovely high notes and impossible-for-the-average-choir-to-make-sound-nice passages that he was so very fond of.)
So in spite of the fact that I was supposed to be focusing on conducting The Messiah, I took a mental time-out to ask, “Heavenly Father, why isn’t this a choral?” His immediate answer was, “Well, do something about it.”
Isn’t that the way of it? You ask a question, and get an assignment.
15 years later, I finally found the nerve to try. Seriously… arrange Handel??? Kinda presumptuous if you ask me.
There were some interesting challenges involved. First, it’s so beautiful in it’s original form when performed well, that you could argue that it needs no arranging. However…
It’s written for orchestral accompaniment. Most of us don’t have an orchestra at our disposal, and the traditional piano reduction is… well… boring. It hammers the melody line; there are places where the left hand holds one note for 30 counts; it’s rather repetitive; it takes two very skilled soloists to make it work; and it’s not written for choir. (Ah, there’s the kicker!)
And then… how much “arranging” do you actually do? Do you simply harmonize the melody over four parts and call it good? That would be a more “purist” sort of approach, but… but…. but… there’s so much potential there!
In the end, I stayed fairly true to the chord structure of the original (a challenge for this jazz lover), and I kept the melody as it’s traditionally performed but I shared it around a bit and put some motion in the harmony parts. I gave the piano something to do, and used the violin as counterpoint.
The SATB and Solo versions are not identical, so you can’t mix the scores, though if you want to sing the solo a half-step higher, the choir score will work just fine to accompany a solo voice.
Sheet Music Downloads
Spotify, Soundcloud (inc. free downloads)
Click the to download the free track for personal use.
Recording featuring vocals by James Loynes:
Apple Music, Amazon
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He shall feed His flock like a shepherd
And He shall gather the lambs with His arm
And carry them in His bosom
And gently lead those that are with young
Come unto Him, ye heavy laden
Come unto Him, all ye that labour
And He will give you rest
Take His yoke upon you and learn of Him
For He is meek and lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest unto your souls
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