(US Versions: Phillips Brooks/Lewis Henry
Redner/Uzziah Christopher Burnap)
(English Versions: Phillips
Brooks/Traditional/Ralph Vaughan Williams/H. Walford Davies)
In 1868 the Episcopalian priest, Phillips Brooks,
wrote a poem following an inspirational visit to Bethlehem he had made in
1865. The organist of his
church, Lewis Redner, added the tune to it literally overnight for the
following day's Christmas Sunday school service and the popular Christmas
carol was born. The Rev. Dr.
Huntingdon who had his church in Worcester, Masschusetts, asked if he could
publish the hymn in his The Church Porch, and it was he who entitled
the music "Saint Louis" as it had so far remained un-named. Originally there were four verses
but Phillips Brookes decided to omit it in 1868 and so is never heard. This version is the one that will
still be heard for the most part throughout the United States, although
Uzziah Christopher Burnap also added his own music called "Ephratah" to it,
which is occasionally also used.
In 1906 in England however, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams took
the carol and made his own adaptation of it with the music he called
"Forest Green", which had been adapted by him from an English folk tune
called "The Ploughboy's Dream" that he had collected from a Mr. Garman in
1903 in Forest Green, England.
This music is also used for the carol "The Newborn King Who Comes
Today". The composer H.
Walford Davies made a further English version, which was for use by choirs
rather than a congregation.
This version, which mainly uses treble voices and organ, has been
used at the King's College, Cambridge, in their Nine Lessons and Carols
service and by the Choir of Durham Cathedral. The Choir at King's College, Cambridge, as well as the
choirs of Winchester Cathedral and St. John's College, Cambridge, Cathedral
have also covered the version by Ralph Vaughan Williams. In the world of popular music the
Lewis Redner version has been recorded by Dolly Parton and Kate & Anna
McGarrigle, and the American composer Leroy Anderson included it in his Suite
of Carols for String Orchestra.
Leroy Anderson and His Orchestra recordings
Decca B0003552-02 (CD: A Leroy Anderson Christmas)