> Maddy Prior > Songs > Shepherds Rejoice

Shepherds Rejoice

[ Roud 7105 ; Bodleian Roud 7105 ; Mudcat 36310 ; words Isaac Watts (1674-1748)]

Mount Olive: The Sheffield Book of Village Carols Shepherds Rejoice The Derbyshire Book of Village Carols

Carollers from Castleton sang Shepherds Rejoice in 1989 on the Village Carols CD of carols from Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak, The Bells of Paradise. This was also included in 1999 on the Smithsonian Folkways anthology of traditional Christmas Carolling from the Southern Pennines, English Village Carols, where Ian Russell noted:

This is one of the best loved carols in the village and has only been found in this location. Versions of the text are widespread on broadsides and in chapbooks, the first verse being the work of Isaac Watts (published 1706-1709).

Carollers from Padstow sang Shepherds Rejoice in 2014, which was included in 2017 on the Village Carols anthology The Theme, the Song, the Joy.

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band sang Shepherds Rejoice to a 19th century American tune on their 1991 CD Carols and Capers.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes sang Shepherds Rejoice in 2003 on their No Masters CD Fire and Sleet and Candlelight and in 2008 on the No Masters CD On Angel Wings. They noted:

Text adapted from Isaac Watts (1674-1748); Music William Seal MS ca 1790.
William Seal may have been an organist. He wrote symphonies, anthems, psalm and hymn tunes and in the 1790’s recorded them all in a manuscript book, now held in Leicestershire Records Office. Seal’s adaptation of Watts’ text makes a particularly concise point about the saviour coming ‘not as monarchs do’—a notable thought so close to the events of the French Revolution. Originally titled A Hymn for Christmas Day—a carol that’s a joy to sing. This version is based on Sue Glover’s transcription in West Gallery Harmony: Carols & Celebrations (1998) edited by Gordon & Isabella Ashman.

Martin Simpson sang Shepherds Rejoice in 2013 on his Topic album Vagrant Stanzas. He noted:

Every Christmas in the Bailey Simpson household, certain seasonal records are played, and from one of these, Maddy Prior’s Carols and Capers, comes Shepherds Rejoice. The lyrics to this were written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who was known as the Father of English Hymnody, and this tune was composed by James Leach of Knaresborough. Leach was a handloom weaver by trade and a choirmaster and composer who published three volumes of hymn tunes, the last posthumously after his death in a stage coach accident in 1798 when he was thirty-six years old.

Andy Turner sang Shepherds Rejoice as the 14 December 2019 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.


Carollers from Castleton sing Shepherds Rejoice

Shepherds, rejoice, lift up your eyes
And send your fears away;
News from the regions of the skies,
Our Saviour’s born today. ×3

Chorus (twice after each verse):
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen!

Rise and salute the new-born King,
With angels all conspire;
Wake into joy the silent string
And tune the sounding lyre. ×3

Here comes the Lord of sovereign grace
To bless the poor below;
To guide our feet into the place
Where milk and honey flow. ×3

Then for His love we will rejoice,
In songs of joy and praise;
Strike every string, shout every voice
Through everlasting days. ×3

Maddy Prior sings Shepherds Rejoice

“Shepherds, rejoice, lift up your eyes,
And send your fears away;
News from the regions of the skies—
A Saviour’s born today!
Jesus, the God whom angels fear,
Comes down to dwell with you!
Today he makes his entrance here,
But not as monarchs do.”

“No gold or purple swaddling bands,
Nor royal shining things;
A manger for his cradle stands,
And holds the King of Kings.
Go, shepherds, where the infant lies,
And see his humble throne;
With tears of joy in all your eyes,
Go, shepherds, kiss the Son.”

Thus Gabriel sang, and straight around
The heavenly armies throng;
They tune their harps to lofty sound,
And thus conclude the song;
“Glory to God that reigns above,
Let peace surround the earth;
Mortals shall know their maker’s love
At their Redeemer’s birth.”

Lord! and shall angels have their songs
And men no tunes to raise?
Oh, may we lose our useless tongues,
When they forget to praise.
Glory to God that reigns above,
That pitied us forborn;
We join to sing our maker’s love,
For there’s a Saviour born.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes sing Shepherds Rejoice

“Shepherds, rejoice, rejoice, and send your fears away;
News from the sky, salvation born today!
Jesus the God, Jesus the God, comes down to dwell with you;
Today he comes, but not as monarchs do, but not as monarchs do.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Glory to God, who reigns enthroned above,
Goodwill to men and peace and endless love,
Goodwill to men, goodwill to men and peace and endless love.

“No gold nor purple, purple, royal shining things,
A manger stands and holds the King of Kings.
Go, shepherd go, Go, shepherd go, and see his humble throne
With tears of joy, go shepherds kiss the son, go shepherds kiss the son.”

And straight around, around, the heavenly armies throng,
They tune their harps and thus conclude their song
“Glory to God, Glory to God, let peace surround the earth
Mortals shall know, of their redeemer’s birth, of their redeemer’s birth.”


Thanks to Tim McElwaine for recording details and lyrics.