The priest who wrote “On Eagle’s Wings,” one of the most popular Christian songs in the hymnal, has penned a new tune inspired by the coronavirus world pandemic. Titled “Shelter Me,” the new hymn touches on themes of social isolation and uncertainty, based on the text of Psalm 23.
Father Michael Joncas explained in an interview with Kare 11, featured above, that he woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for “Shelter Me,” the new hymn that is taking the Christian world by storm. The priest spent the next seven hours fleshing out the song until the instant hit emerged.
Fr. Joncas told the Star Tribune that the images of those suffering through COVID-19 were especially moving to him because of his own battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its nerves. Having been intubated for the disease in 2000, he knew what patients on respirators were going through.
The song was reportedly written in just seven hours, from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m., at which point he contacted his music publisher, GIA Publications, who immediately began working to distribute the song. In the hopes that “Shelter Me” will help people through these hard times, they have made the score available to use free of royalties for a full year.
Christian musicians all over the world are already taking advantage of this grace period, recording their own renditions of “Shelter Me” and posting them to YouTube.with some really impressive arrangements.
There were two recordings that stuck out to us. One was from Spiritu, a Catholic choir based out of the Church of the Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, Minnesota, hometown of the composer himself. They made a lovely video from isolation that has some of the best sound quality that we’ve heard from these quarantine style recordings.
Our other favorite comes from Young Voices of the Philippines, a youth choir that focuses on training the next generation of musicians. This arrangement is impeccable, with full orchestration and interesting overlapping vocal lines. We were blown away that someone was able to put together such an advanced arrangement of the score so quickly, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become the standard.
If you would like to get a copy of the score to try your own hand at recording “Shelter Me,” you can download the sheet music here.