Composer: J. L. Macbeth Bain

James Leith Macbeth Bain (1860–1925) was a Scottish hymn writer, religious minister and author who became known to his peers as Brother James. He is remembered for his religious publications, as well as the hymn tune "Brother James' Air". James Leith Bain was born at his parents' house on Inverness Road, Pitlochry within the Parish of Moulin, Perthshire on the 21st of November, 1860 to a John Bain (Colporteur) and a Margaret Leith. His parents had married on 1 November 1855 in Nairn Burgh, Nairnshire. James' siblings, also born in Pitlochry, were a John Jnr. (10 August 1856), Mary (9 October 1858), and Margaret ( 6 April 1863). John Bain Snr. had been born in Edinburgh Parish on 20 October 1826 to a John Bain (Shoemaker) and a Mary Cam… Go to person page >

Tune Information

Composer: J. L. Macbeth Bain
Incipit: 13515 61543 11711
Key: D Major
Source: Traditional
Copyright: By permission of Oxford University Press.


The Lord's My Shepherd

How lovely is thy dwelling-place

How lovely is thy dwelling-place,
O Lord of hosts, to me!
The tabernacles of thy grace
how pleasant, Lord, they be!

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BROTHER JAMES' AIR was composed by James Leith Macbeth Bain (b. Scotland, c. 1840; d. Liverpool, England, 1925), the healer, mystic, and poet known simply as Brother James. The tune was first published in his volume The great peace: being a New Year's greeting ... (1915). Born in a devout Christian home, Bain came to doubt the faith but later regained a mystical belief with the aid of the Christo Theosophic Society. He founded the Brotherhood of Healers, and he and his fellow healers often sang to their patients during healing sessions. In the latter years of his life he worked among the poor in the slums of Liverpool. He published a book on healing entitled The Brotherhood of Healers ... (1906).

This well-loved tune is in bar form (AAB) with an unusual final phrase that rises to a high tonic cadence. Ideally suited to part singing, the harmonization is adapted from the popular arrangement by Gordon Jacob (b. Norwood, near London, England, 1895; d. Saffron Walden, Essex, England, 1984) published in 1934, which was also titled "Brother James' Air."

Jacob studied at Dulwich College and the Royal College of Music and received his doctorate in music from London University in 1935. He taught composition at the Royal College of Music from 1926 to 1966 and was respected both as a fine teacher and as a composer of orchestral, chamber, and choral music and film scores. Included in his publications are Orchestral Technique (1931) and The Composer and His Art (1960).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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