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O Little Town of Bethlehem

Christmas song
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Author's manuscript of first stanza.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" is a popular Christmas carol.

Contents

History

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), an Episcopal priest, Rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, was inspired when he was visiting the little town of Bethlehem in 1865. Three years later, he wrote the poem for his church and his organist, Lewis Redner, added the music. Redner's tune, simply titled "St. Louis", is the tune used most often for this carol in the United States. Meanwhile, the English tune "Forest Green", adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams, is the tune most often used for this carol in the United Kingdom and sometimes in the U.S. as well, especially in the Episcopal Church.

Another version by H. Walford Davies, called "Wengen", is usually performed only by choirs rather than as a congregational hymn. This is because the first two verses are for treble voices with organ accompaniment, with only the final verse as a chorale/refrain harmony. This setting includes a recitative from the Gospel of Luke at the beginning, and cuts verses 2 and 4 of the original 5-verse carol. This version is traditionally used at the service of Nine Lessons and Carols in Kings College, Cambridge.

Lyrics

The lyrics here are taken from "Christmas Songs and Easter Carols". Phillips Brooks, 1903, which is thought to be the earliest published source.

There have been many variations since, including swapping the first and last 4 stanzas in verse 2, and adding a comma in line 7 of verse 3 before 'still'.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where Misery cries out to Thee,
Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching,
And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O, come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!


Phillips Brooks (music by Lewis Redner, other settings from Ralph Vaughan Williams adapted from the English tune "Forest Green", Carl Rütti, Henry Walford Davies and John Michael Pitts on the Naxos Book of Carols [1]) -- 1868.

Cover versions

Media

External links

  • Free arrangements for piano and SATB from Cantorion.org (cc-by-sa-2.0, PD)


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "O_Little_Town_of_Bethlehem". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.


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