Lord, I Would Follow Thee: Lyricist and Composer Discuss The Hymn
The Mormon Channel’s History of the Hymns series examines the details behind many of the hymns of the Church. “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” is the subject of an episode in the series.
The episode is unique in that it is really an interview with the lyricist, Susan Evans McCloud, and the composer of the music, K. Newell Dayley. It’s fascinating to hear them recount the events that led to the hymn in their own words. An excerpt is below:
Three keys to setting the lyrics emerged quickly. The first was an idea that the first line of the lyrics ought to be repeated. The first time it would express a desire or aspiration and the second time an intent and commitment.
The second key was to change “Lord, I will follow Thee” to “Lord, I would follow Thee,” in order to reflect the struggle inherent in trying to achieve a change of heart.
The third key was a realization that the music must be straightforward and rather uncomplicated in its nature in order to allow the words to shine through and that the structure of the music needed to emerge in a natural way.
Following those keys, melodic ideas began to flow. The first was an upward-reaching statement of the first line of the lyrics that descended through the second line. The melody of the third and fourth lines needed to gradually ascend in order to express real intent and to reach a level that would enable the fifth line, a restatement of the first, and the sixth line to express a firm and informed commitment to humbly follow the Lord.
Listen to the complete episode and hear the story from the sources. “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” is featured on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Hymns of Faith (Legacy Series) album. In the video above, the Choir performs the song during a session of general conference. Below, Andrew Unsworth performs an organ solo of the hymn.