Christopher Tye (±1505 – 1573): While shepherds watched

The lyrics to this greatly loved carol are a paraphrase of Luke 2:8-14 by Nahum Tate an Anglo-Irish playwright and poet who spent most of his life in England. The tune –"Winchester Old" is a common-meter psalm tune arranged by George Kirbye from Tye’s Acts of the Apostles which was published in Este’s The Whole Book of Psalmes in 1592. In his day Tye – whose strong protestant leanings coupled with superb musical talent earned him the post of music tutor to Edward VI was famous and highly influential. Not many of his works have survived but those that have are well worth listening to. Enjoy :-).


Painting: The Annunciation to the Shepherds. Unkown artist(s). Technique: Fresco. Date: 1180
Location: Panteón de los Reyes, Colegiata de San Isidoro, Léon

While Shepherds Watched : Lyrics

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

"Fear not," said he,
For mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.

"To you in David’s
Town this day
Is born of David’s line
The Saviour who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign.

"The heavenly Babe
You there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped
In swathing bands
And in a manger laid.

Thus spake the seraph,
And forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song

"All glory be to
God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth
From heaven to men
Begin and never cease!"

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