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While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:8 KJV

About the Song

Traditional tune with lyrics by Nahum Tate.

Arrangement and additional lyrics by Sally DeFord.

One Christmas as our congregation sang “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” I wondered why this long-familiar carol had never been one of my favorites. It has great words (in what other song do you get to sing “seraph” and “forthwith” in the same line?) and the melody suits the lyrics well, but… ho hum. As Marianne Dashwood so aptly put it, “…there is a something wanting.”

So I played around with it, and found that it readily fell into 6/8 meter. At a quick tempo, with a flute intro and obbligato for the last verse, it passed the “fun” test: my husband whistled it for a week.

Heather’s demo for this song is of the “don’t try this at home” variety–or rather, don’t try this alone. She’s the soprano… and the alto. Obviously you’ll need two voices for a live presentation. The harmonies she sings are adapted from the SATB score.

The scores labeled SATB 1 and SATB 2 in different keys, but otherwise identical. If you need other keys, you are welcome to transpose it using the Personal Composer Demo.

Spotify, Soundcloud (inc. free downloads)

Click the Soundcloud download icon to download the free track for personal use.

Recording featuring vocals by Heather Prusse:

Accompaniment track:

Recording featuring vocals by The Latter Day Singers:

Apple Music, Amazon

These files may be copied/shared in any quantity in any physical format unless otherwise noted. They may not be re-sold or offered for download.


  (Video provided to YouTube by outside parties may contain ads that may be skipped after a few seconds.)


While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind
“Good tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.”

“To you in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign
The heavenly Babe you there shall find,
To human view displayed
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
“All glory be to God on high,
And on the earth be peace,
Good will henceforth from heav’n to man
Begin and never cease.”

Then with all haste the shepherds came
To see the wondrous sight
Amid the strains of heav’nly praise
That lingered on the night
“All glory be to God on high,
And on the earth be peace,
Good will henceforth from heav’n to man
Begin and never cease.”

If you have questions, please check the FAQ
If you don't find your answer there, feel free to post your question here. 🙂


  1. Betty A Curtis

    This is absolutely beautiful. Where would I find sheet music for SATB with piano accompaniment?

  2. Sally Shutt

    Oh, I am so delighted! I have been writing an Advent devotional for a few family members. Each day has its own Scripture with a song and its history. “While Shepherds…” accompanies Luke 2:8-12. I love all the traditional tunes, but this tune is warmer and brighter. Thank you!


    I am so excited to perform this with my Choir again this year for Christmas ! Thanks, Sally, it is awesome. Tammy

  4. Angelina

    Our stake already had this printed in a lower key and we have already started learning it. The music has been copied on a terrible copy machine and we were going to reprint them. Can I please get it in the original key?


  5. Samuel Gladden

    I love the arrangement and would like to have a midi file for it or make one… but idk making one is a lot of work and I would need to practice it to even record a midi…

  6. Cameron Nokes

    Like Jay said, the key of this piece is different than it was a few years ago. My choir has already started on the arrangement in the old key and our flautist is requesting the just the flute sheet music. Could you post the music for the old key as well? Thanks!

    • Angelina

      Yes please! Can I get the older version Please. Our ward has already started learning the old version and the copies were really hard to read and as the pianist I wanted to print off a cleaner copy. May I have the old version too. Thanks!

    • Rebecca Nield

      That’s our problem, too!

      • Allison

        Same problem here too! Would love the flute part for the version that begins in the key of E flat. Anyone had success locating it?

  7. Jay

    This is a great arrangement, and we’ve done this before in our ward. I noticed though, that the version posted here is a half-step lower than one that I got from this site previously. Same basic arrangement here, just lower.

    Thank you for sharing your talent, and all this beautiful music.

  8. Stace

    We sing this every year in our ward (Draper, UT). Thank you so much for this lively arrangement.

  9. musicchick35

    I love this arrangement and hope to sing it as a choir in church this year.
    If not, there’s always next year.
    Thank you!

  10. dozie Priya

    I love this song, thanks a lot for the

  11. Rosa

    Thank you for such a beautiful arrangement. Thank you for sharing your talent!

  12. Dan

    Thanks Sally. Great song, great arrangement. Our ward has done this 3-4 times now.

  13. Rebecca Stay

    Thanks so much. We (the choir of the Frankfurt Germany International ward) sang it yesterday in church and it was very well received. Jen Kearon, wife of Elder Kearon of the Europe Area Pres., accompanied us on her flute. We really do appreciate your arrangements : beautiful but not impossible for untrained singers!

  14. Mary Katherine May

    This is lovely. Thank you.


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