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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.

Listen (and free 128kbps MP3 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:

HQ Audio Downloads

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Lyrics

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.”

7 Comments

  1. Stace

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

    Reply
  2. 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!

    Reply
  3. dozie Priya

    I love this song, thanks a lot for the
    Inspiration.

    Reply
  4. Rosa

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

    Reply
  5. Dan

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

    Reply
  6. 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!

    Reply
  7. Mary Katherine May

    This is lovely. Thank you.

    Reply

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