Jesus, Lover of My Soul


Charles Wesley’s text “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” is often paired with the noble Welsh tune “Aberystwyth.”  However, this SATB a cappella setting utilizes the deceptively simple and gracefully arching tune “Martyn.”  After two homophonic verses that establish a mood of reverence, the piece divides into double choir.  The second choir enters half a measure after the first, with soaring lines that combine with those of the first choir to form ravishing harmonies.  The effect is as if the listener, lost in thought on a pensive walk, rounds a bend that opens onto a great vista of beauty.

A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



I discovered this gem of an old hymn while visiting my friends John and Jacki Gingrich one day.  A hundred-year-old Church of the Brethren hymnal was open on their piano, and I flipped through it a bit.  This old hymn, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” — with its unusual, archaic title — caught my eye for musical reasons; very few hymns have an odd number of measures, yet this old tune comes in 5-bar phrases.  Apart from this unique feature, the melody is simple, timeless, and flawless in its beautiful arches.  I sat down at the bench to learn it, and discovered just how beautiful a simple melody, set with the simplest harmonies, can be.

I later learned that this hymn text was omitted from the early compilations that the Wesley brothers made as their Methodist movement grew, (powered largely by hymns!) Perhaps it was felt to be too intimate to serve as a corporate hymn.  And yet, as can be the case with artistic utterances that come from the heart, it eventually earned its rightful place as a beloved text of Christian hymnody.

This arrangement, probably percolating internally for a while, was written for and premiered at Pepperdine University’s “Ascending Voice” conference in May 2016, sung by the chamber choir Cerulean.

In the spring of 2017, I had to be on vocal rest for a month and a half, and had a unique response to this particular piece when rehearsing it at church choir.  In my state of enforced silence, as I played for the choir, my throat rippled with spasms — so badly, apparently, did my body want/need to be singing it.  Of all of my pieces, this holds a particular spot in my heart, even though it is only an arrangement.  It’s hard to say why, but maybe it has to do with the perfection of the “Martyn” tune, the purity of the harmony, and a “felt” sense of the depths from which the author’s words sprang:

Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high;
Hide me, O my Savior hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me;
All my trust on thee is stayed, all my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.

We know from the journals of Charles Wesley that he endured a terrible storm at sea, which was also the occasion of a profound spiritual experience.

Additional information


SATB double choir

Reviews (0)


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart