The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Rise Up, Shepherd, And Follow

Version 1; Compare Rise Up, Shepherds, and Follow - Version 2

Words & Music: African-American spiritual
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

1. There's a star in the East on Christmas morn, [1]
  Rise up, shepherd, and follow.
It will lead to the place where the Christ was born, [2]
  Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

Follow, follow, rise up, shepherd, and follow.
Follow the Star of Bethlehem,
Rise up, shepherd, and follow.

2. If you take good heed to the angel's words,
  Rise up, shepherd, and follow.
You'll forget your flocks, you'll forget your herds,
  Rise up, shepherd, and follow. Refrain

1. Or: There's a Savior to see on Christmas morn, Return

2. Or: the Savior's born. Return

A Christmas Plantation Song, said to have been first published in Slave Songs of the United States, edited by William Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison in 1867 and also printed in Religious Folk Songs of the Negro as sung on the Plantations, edited by Thomas P. Fenner, Virginia, 1909.  The songs in this collection were collected during the American Civil War from slaves in Georgia and South Carolina.  It could be called an American shepherd carol, resembling a European shepherd carol, with the principal singer giving out the line and the chorus repeating the refrain (a 'question-and-answer' carol).

The American soprano Dorothy Maynor popularized this and other African-American spirituals, and the Harlem School of Music in New York City. She also helped familiarize Americans with several other Negro spirituals about the birth of Jesus.


Editor's Note, 12 December 2004:

I borrowed a copy of "Slave Songs of the United States" from my local library (the Dover Publications reprint of 1995, but was unable to locate a copy of this song in that volume.  The song was also unavailable in Harold Courlander, Negro Folk Music, U.S.A. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963). The version printed by Alan Lomax, The Folk Songs of North America (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Dolphin Books, 1975) has the lyrics found in Version 2.

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