Behind the Christmas Carol: There’s A Star in the East

There’s A Star in the East is a Christmas Carol.

Reginald Heber is credited with writing the song. He was in 1783 England and named after his father. He professed his admiration of the hymns of John Newton and William Cower and one of the first High Church Anglicans to write his own hymns. In 1811, he was appointed Bishop of Calcutta. He wrote 57 hymns between 1811 an 1821. He began preparing his hymns for publication but was unable to complete his arrangements before traveling to India in 1823. He died in 1826 and a collection of his hymns were published the following year as Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year. A handful of his hymns survive today.

William Walker

The arrangement known and used today was written by John H. Hickok in 1832. John Hoyt Hickok was born in 1792. He was a teacher, publisher, and music compiler, arranger and composer. He married Mary Lockwood in 1814. In 1823, the family moved to Lewistown, Pennsylvania. He died in 1841. 

The tune is a traditional American tune.

The first verse of the hymn were published in Gardiner Spring’s Brick Church hymns.

The Wise Men followed the star

The tune is a traditional tune.

The one undisputed fact is the music was arranged by William Walker in 1835.

Walker was an American Baptist song leader and shape note singing master. He was born near Cross Keys, South Carolina in 1809 and grew up near Spartanburg.  His nickname was Singing Billy. He married Amy Golightly. He would publish the songbook The Southern Harmony, using four-shape note system of notation. He died in 1875.

This hymn should not be confused with two versions of the hymn Star of the East.

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