This beautiful Christmas carol began as a poem written by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848. The poem is based on Luke 2:4-7, which read:
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
In 1849, English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to his melody entitled “Irby,” which is the tune we still sing today.
I first heard this carol on a CD of English (as in from England) carols someone gave me for Christmas when I was about 15. It was a choral arrangement that began with a soprano soloist. For some reason the melody and
were unforgetable to me, and I learned to play the carol by ear on piano to accompany my singing.
Here is “Once in Royal David’s City” on ukulele, viola, alto recorder, and lyre. I hope you enjoy it!
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