Christmas Song Story: Once in Royal David’s City

The carol originally appeared as a poem written by Cecil Frances Alexander. The poem was first published in the 1848 Hymns for Little Children.

The poem tells the story of the nativity and was combined in a collection with other well-known hymns such as “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill Far Away”.

Cecil Frances Alexander

The following year, Henry John Gauntlett, an English organists, discovered the poem and set it to music.

Since 1919, the King’s College Chapel Cambridge as begun it’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols with this carol. They use an arrangement by their longtime organist {from 1876-1929} Dr. Arthur Henry Mann. The song serves as a processional hymn.

The first verse includes a soloists, who is usually chosen the day of the performances. The choirmaster decides who has the strongest voice on that day.

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