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We Three Kings of Orient Are

(Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr.)

This Christmas carol was written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857 for New York’s General Theological Seminary as part of their Christmas pageant. It was later published in his Carols, Hymns and Songs in 1863 and in an illustrated version in 1865 under the title “Three Kings of Orient”.

The first and last verses and chorus are sung by all three kings and the second, third and fourth are sung individually by the kings Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

Now part of the public domain, when the carol was published Rev. John Hopkins Jr. put in a rider that he would prosecute any offender that changed either the words or the music.

The song has been used by many popular artists including the instrumental Jethro Tull track “We Five Kings”, The Beach Boys using an orchestral arrangement, the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlan where they coupled it with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, the singer Nicolas using the melody for his “Daffodil” and Burl Ives in his Christmas at the White House.  The composer Leroy Anderson used it as one of the carols featured in his Suite of Carols for Brass Choir.

Leroy Anderson and His Orchestra recordings
Decca B0003552-02 (CD: A Leroy Anderson Christmas)

Sources:

  1. http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/we_three_kings_of_orient_are.htm
  2. http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/e/wethree.htm
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Three_Kings