Once In Royal David’s City has been the opening carol of the Nine Lessons And Carols Service at King’s College, Cambridge for 90 years, and, since here at the OM we adore men and boys choirs, the annual OM Aural Advent Calendar does likewise. As it was and is and ever shall be. World without end…..or similar.
This carol started out as a poem written in 1848 by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, a well-known hymn writer in 19th-century England. Her (yes, her) books Hymns For Little Children, from which this carol text originates, was so popular that 69 editions were printed before the end of the century. Other hymns Alexander penned are All Things Bright And Beautiful and There Is A Green Hill Far Away.
A year after the poem was first published, HJ Gauntlett set the words to music. The rest, as they say, is history.
The very best thing about Christmas carols is the communal singing that is such an integral part of the season. You may hate singing on your own however a good spot of lusty ensemble singing is another thing altogether. And, if you rather like the sound of your own voice, trying to drown out 30 other similarly enthusiastic people can be a fun game in itself.
In most circumstances, is traditional for the congregation to join in starting on the third verse of this carol, so crank up your speakers and take your very best carol-singing voice out for a bit of exercise. Miss Mussel has already done it three or four times while writing this post and is already feeling less resentful towards the mountain of audio editing that is glaring menacingly from the corner.
Just in case they have slipped your mind, here are the words to the verses on the video:
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.
For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
There’ll be a new video every day until the final extravaganza on Christmas morning. Watch this space or better yet, tell a friend and watch it zusammen.