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> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > O Little Town of Bethlehem
> Albion Christmas Band > Songs > O Little Town of Bethlehem

O Little Town of Bethlehem

[ Roud 24752 ; Ballad Index FSWB378B ; DT LTTLTOWN ; words Phillips Brooks (1868)]

Nowell Sing We Clear sang O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1985 on their album Nowell Sing We Clear Vol. 3.

Martyn Wyndham-Read, Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang O Little Town of Bethlehem in 1986 on their Greenwich Village album Yuletracks.

Finest Kind sang O Little Town of Bethlehem on their 2004 Christmas album Feasts & Spirits. They noted:

Written in 1868 by Phillips Brooks, an American Episcopalian priest, for his Philadelphia Sunday school students to sing at Christmas. Brooks had toured the Holy Land three years before, riding on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he attended the evening service at the Church of the Nativity.

Though the carol is commonly sung in North America to an air written by Brooks’s organist, we prefer the tune popular in England, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams from a farm labourer in Forest Green, Surrey. It was Vaughan Williams who paired the words and music in his English Hymns (1906), naming the tune for the labourer’s village.

The Albion Christmas Band sang O Little Town of Bethlehem in 2006 on their CD Winter Songs and in 2009 on their CD Traditional.

Jon Boden, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Gavin Davenport, Fay Hield and Sam Sweeney sang Little Town of Bethlehem à la BACCApella to the tune of The Farmer’s Boy at the Royal Hotel in Dungworth. This was the 27 December 2010 entry of Jon’s project A Folk Song a Day.

GreenMatthews sang O Little Town of Bethlehem on their 2011 CD A Victorian Christmas.

Kate Rusby sang Little Town of Bethlehem on her 2011 Christmas album, While Mortals Sleep.

Josienne Clarke sang O Little Town of Bethlehem in 2013 on her and Ben Walker’s CD Midwinter.


Nowell Sing We Clear sing O Little Town of Bethlehem

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;1
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!