The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Modern Christmas Carols

Compiled and Composed by

Edgar Pettman

Organist and Director of the Choir, St. Mary's, Kilburn

With a Preface and Notes by the Author

London: Weekes & Co., 14, Hanover Street, Regent Street, W.

Copyright By Edgar Pettman. 1893.

Nota Bene — Every tune in this collection (except those marked * in the index) is the sole copyright of the author, who also owns certain copyrights in respect of several altered verses. Application must therefore be made to him for permission to reprint or make any fresh copy of any tune or of copyright words in the book.

Editor's Note: The tunes marked with an asterisk in the Index are:

  • XVIII. In The Fields With Their Flocks Abiding
  • XX. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear


This is Pettman's first published collection -- the second collection was The Westminster Carol Book (1899) -- and was described as "a new selection of thirty-six Modern Carols, arranged in six series." Each series contained six carols each. Each individual series volume included both words and music, and sold for 4 pence. The complete series was published in several forms from one which was "bound together in limp cloth," which sold for 1 schilling 6 pence, to the "Presentation Edition," which contained a "handsome frontis piece," was bound in morocco, and sold for 7 schillings 6 pence. A complete words-only edition was available for congregational use, and sold for 1 pence.

Songs with an asterisk are not found in the 1899 collection.

Series One

01. A Child This Day is Born

02. Now Let Our Mingling Voices Rise - Similar: O, Let Your Mingling Voices Rise

03. When Christ Was Born of Mary Free. See: In Excelsis Gloria - Version 4

04. Who Is This Babe So Lowly

05. Come Old and Young

06. Come, See A Child of Low Estate

Series Two

07. Shepherds, Watching O'er Your Flocks

08. The Clanging of Joy Bells

09. All This Night Bright Angels Sing

10. Cradled In A Manger, A medley of four carols.

11. While The Shepherds Kept Their Vigil

12. A Medley: Part 1. Blessed Night, When First That Plain; Part 2. Hark, What Music Fills the Sky!

Series Three

13. From Highest Heaven I Come To Tell

14. Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices

15. See Amid The Winter's Snow

16. Carol Sweetly Carol

17. Come Ye Lofty

18. In the Field With Their Flocks Abiding

Series Four

19. Hark! Hark What News The Angels Bring!

20. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

21. Christ Was Born On Christmas Day

22. Angels, From The Realms of Glory

23. Hark! Hear Ye Not The Angel Song?

24. Sleep! Holy Babe!

Series Five

25. Hail, Sweet Babe, So Pure and Holy!

26. Angels Singing Church Bells Ringing

27. O Happy Morn, O Glad Bright Day

28. I Sing the Birth Was Born Tonight - Version 1

29. Lo! My Heart Rejoices

30. Come, Christian Men, Let All Rejoice

Series Six

31. Let Heaven and Earth Rejoice and Sing

32. From the Eastern Mountains

33. O'er the Hill and O'er the Vale

34. The Babe Is Born In Bethlehem

35. A Virgin Unspotted

36. Break Forth, Break Forth, In Joyful Song

Benediction Hymns and Amen

     He Has Come An Infant Stranger

After the Blessing either of these Benediction Hymns may be sung, followed by the "St. Mary" Amen, which should be taken up in strict time with the last half-bar of either hymn.

     No. I. Lord, Keep Us Safe Tonight

     No. II. May the Grace of God Our Saviour, With The Six-fold Amen.

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Modern Christmas Carols

Compiled and Composed by
Edgar Pettman
Organist and Director of the Choir, St. Mary's, Kilburn

With a Preface and Notes by the Author

London: Weekes & Co., 14, Hanover Street, Regent Street, W.
Copyright By Edgar Pettman. 1893.

Nota Bene — Every tune in this collection (except those marked * in the index) is the sole copyright of the author, who also owns certain copyrights in respect of several altered verses. Application must therefore be made to him for permission to reprint or make any fresh copy of any tune or of copyright words in the book.

Editor's Note: The tunes marked with an asterisk in the Index are:

  • XVIII. In The Fields With Their Flocks Abiding
  • XX. It Came Upon The Midnight Clear


It is beyond the scope of the preface to this small book of new carol music to narrate minutely the many interesting episodes of carol life ; or to refer, even briefly, to some of the beautiful, though absolutely untrustworthy legends which have, from time to time, appeared in the early stages of the history of carol singing at the festive season of Christmas-tide. They who are interested in the subject, and require more information about it are referred to Sandy's "Christmas Carols" (Lond. 1833); Hone's "Ancient Mysteries described" (Lond. 1823); the preface by the Rev. H. R. Bramley, M.A., to " Carols New and Old" (Novello, Ewer & Co.) ; or the preface to "Carols for use in Church " (compiled by Rev. R. R. Chope, M.A.), written by Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A.

For the simple purpose of this book, therefore, I shall content myself with but passing reference to the subjects I have referred to, and at once invite my readers to consider most earnestly the serious and important aspect of carol singing in the present day. I say serious aspect, because I wish to distinguish it at once from the older and even now not uncommon usage of Christmas carols, which is so much to be deprecated, namely, the singing of festive carols, e.g., " The Wassal Song," "Good King Wenceslas," etc., with no other purpose whatever than that of securing gain by the performance. The quaint music of the carol, which is so appealing to most people, should surely never be sung except reverently and devoutly, in a proper place, and, as regards the words, it should accompany only gospel narrative, pure and simple ; in this way helping in no small degree to bring home to us all the true story and lesson of that great event, the Nativity, which gave birth to the New Dispensation under which we live.

There is a reason, perhaps, for the festive character of carol singing which is suggested by Mr. Bramley in his preface to the book mentioned above. The coincidence of the Druid Festival, the Roman Saturnalia, and more particularly the Scandinavian Feast of Yule, which is now synonymous with our Christmas, and which was observed by our forefathers, fell at this season of the year (see "The Two Babylons," by Hislop, pp. 147-165).

It is doubtless these Pagan ceremonies that gave rise to the customs which have been handed down from these ancient times to us of the present day, namely, the decoration of our houses with evergreens, the Yule logv and the mistletoe; from this it is easy to see how in this hard season of the year, when we are more confined to our houses by the severe weather, these customs became interlaced with much feasting and revelry, a fate unfortunately shared by the celebration of the Incarnation; without doubt it is due to this circumstance that Christmas carols became impregnated with reference more to feasting than to the religious nature of their composition. But to go back to the origin of carol music. It is by no means easy to assign to any particular event the actual beginning of the custom of singing Nativity songs at the celebration of the great festival of Christmas. The first recorded instance in any definite form is to be found in S. Ouen's life of S. Eligius (written Circa 672), in which we are informed that the Bishop of Noyen forbade Christians indulging in balls, dances, carols, or diabolical songs, on the feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24), or other festivals of Saints. From this we observe the tendency, at that time, to borrow from heathen rites (such as the Solstice) some parts at least for the keeping of a Christian festival; we also notice how, in the present instance, carol singing was largely interspersed with dancing, which has been a feature of all the most ancient festive gatherings.

But perhaps the most noteworthy instance of the employment of Christmas carols, and in this case for purely religious purposes, is that of S. Francis, of Assisi, who seems to have first conceived the idea of Nativity plays which became so common not only in Roman Catholic, but also in many Lutheran Churches in Germany; it would seem that in the first case they were signally successful in stemming the strong tide of heresy, which set in from the East, under the name of Manicheism. It may be interesting to know what this special form of false doctrine was: it taught that all matter was, in its nature, evil; and the Maker of the world, the God of old, was therefore without any good in Him. It also distinctly denied the possibility of the Incarnation. This secular body for a time became very powerful, and their pernicious teaching pervaded many sects, and even nations, of the West. It was S. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order, who first dared to oppose the enormous power of these heretics. His modus operandi was to introduce into his service a kind of Nativity Play; with Papal consent, he had erected in his Church Praesipio {vide No. VI.) or crib ; a living ox, a real stall filled with hay, a babe represented by a doll, and in fact made as perfect a representation as he could of the first night at Bethlehem, in his little village Church in Grecia.

Many interesting details of these Nativity plays are described in Mrs. Oliphant's life of S. Francis, of Assisi (London: Macmillan, 1817) to which the reader is referred. In many parts of Germany, at the present day, performances such as the above take place, assuming various forms in different places; but the visit of the Magi seems to have had more attractions than the actual birth itself. The properties and personations in such cases as these savoured so much of the stage, that it is small wonder that people began to realize how unreal all this was, and, further, how distracting all this must have been for the purposes of actual Divine worship.

In England, carols, minus the dancing only, but alas! not altogether without the revelry, have survived. It therefore remains for us, who believe the Gospel story as it is, and not what some would make it be, to regard carol services and carol singing, whether at home or at Church, as a means of spiritual refreshment and enjoyment. To this end, therefore, all good and true Christians must unite not only in discountenancing street-singing, as such when the motive is clearly greed of gain, but also to sympathize with, and encourage, both by attendance at, and entering heartily into the spirit of, all carol services.

May I here plead for a revivification of that grand old Post-Reformation custom, i.e., the singing together in one's own house, on Sunday afternoons or evenings, as most convenient, the favourite hymns of the family circle. In this carnal century we often see advertised "Happy half-hours for the people" and yet quite fail to recognize that under our own roof we have the power to unite our families in spending many happy half-hours in the way indicated above. The early impressions of childhood are indelible, the power and force of them irresistible; why, then, neglect so great a power? why deny oneself the pleasure of participating in such enjoyments?

The object of the above paragraph, which I implore all to read and earnestly consider, is to invite those who approve of it, to try carols in the same way.

In conclusion, I have the pleasing task to perform, of thanking those who have so readily, and kindly, assisted me in the publication of this book: the Rev. Godfrey Thring, B.A., for permission to use the words of Nos. xxiii. and xxxii., and much valuable information; Rev. H. A. Mills, M.A., executor of the late Rev. E. Caswall, the words of xv. and xxiv.; Miss Wiglesworth, the words of xii., xxv. and xxxvi.; Mrs. Archer Guerney, words of xvii.; Mrs. Hernaman, words of No. xxii.; Rev. S. J. Stone, M.A., words of xi.; Rev. W. D. Springett, D.D., words of iv. and v. (specially written for this book); Rev. Matthew Woodward, M.A., words of viii.; J. Farmer, Esq., permission to use his beautiful carol, No. xviii.; Messrs. Nisbet & Co., words of No. xii. (from Dr. Bonar's Hymns of Faith and Hope); Messrs. Novello & Co., words of No. xiii.; and to the Rev. H. R. Bramley, M.A., for most helpful information.

I have made every effort to discover the ownership of all copyright works included in this book, and to obtain permission to use such; if, however, through any oversight or mistake, I have infringed any copyright, I trust the owner will at once communicate with me, stating what is required of me, for such infringement; meanwhile, he may rest assured that such a deed was quite unintentional, and for doing it I offer my sincere apology.

Edgar Pettman

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The object of these short notes is to explain, where explanation is necessary, and to offer advice where such may be required. In the preface I have stated the reasons which prompted me to publish the tunes I have written; it only remains, therefore, for me to express my sincere hope that they may be found both helpful and useful in popularising congregational carol singing, a subject which requires most serious consideration, more indeed than it now, I fear, often receives.

It may be noticed that in each series there is one number which is intended to be sung as a solo, or chorus by the choir only; this has been done for the purpose of relieving the monotony of a long sequence of carols; which may further be varied, and the carol service be made more instructive, if a short address be given, or a lesson read, after two or three' carols have been sung.

Large quantities will be supplied to poor parishes at specially reduced prices, on application by letter, enclosing stamped envelope for reply, addressed to the Author, care of the Publishers of this book.

No. I.—No collection of carols can be considered complete if it excludes this old and spirited tune. The last six notes of the bass should be sung an octave higher for every repetition of the chorus. Verses 3 and 5 to be sung by the Trebles only.

No. II. — Suitable for a processional hymn, where one is required. Verse 3 may be sung as a quartette.

No. III.—The florid refrain of this carol is based upon an old English melody; it should be sung a little faster than the preceding bars, and in strict time to the end.

No. IV.—The first half (in A minor) may be sung as a duet for Trebles and Altos; all joining in the second part (in A major), care being taken to sing the cadence as directed.

No. V.—For Choir alone; the 1st Tenor may be sung by male Altos, provided the alto part is adequately sustained by the and Trebles. The male quartette should not be sung too loudly. A good effect may be obtained by the Choir and Congregation joining in the chorus—fortissimo. Another version of these words is found in Novello's collection of Christmas Carols New and Old.

No. VI.—The first half (in E minor) should be sung by Choir alone, except in the last verse; all joining in the chorus of each verse.

No. VIII.—It is most important to observe the marks of expression (particularly in the inner parts) in the chorus of this carol.

No. IX.—Not to be sung too legato, notes soft and slightly detached till the third score (5th line), which is forte and very legato, the one half contrasting with the other.

No. X.—Care must be taken to sing the dotted notes in strict time, otherwise the music will seem to be in | time. No pause or rest is to be made between the verses.

No. XI.—To be sung softly and piquantly; 5th verse, Trebles and Tenors pianissimo last verse loud and full.

No. XII.—To be sung joyously, almost boisterously, particularly the last "Alleluia." Parts I and II are quite distinct from one another, and should not be taken successively in the same service.

No. XIII.—If found too long, some of the verses may be omitted, particularly as the music will not bear too much repetition, at least not at the same service.

No. XIV.—May be sung as a recessional hymn, very solid, i.e. legato and full. The theoretical organist is requested kindly to fill up and expand the chords as much as possible.

No. XV. —An alternative tune will be found in Novello's collection. This is intended only for congregational purposes.

No. XVII.—Care should be taken not to sing this too fast, or make the Bass too pronounced.

No. XVIII.—This exquisite number, which appears through the kindness of Mr. Farmer, of Balliol College, must be taken in strict time with the metronome mark.

No. XIX.—May be sung as a duet for Trebles and Altos. The words are taken from an old book of carols in the British Museum.

No. XX.—This beautiful composition (adapted by Mr. Barnby) may be sung as a quartette, at verses 2 and 4.

No. XXI.—Very full and loud, but not too fast; the third line in each verse to be sung much slower than the other lines.

No. XXII.—Care must be taken not to hurry the quavers in this composition. An alternative tune will be found in the Ancient and Modern Hymn-book.

No. XXIII.—The first four lines should be sung as a quartette, unless the parts will be sung most accurately in tune by the whole Choir; who will, however, join in at the 5th line. Great care is required to change suddenly from ff. to pp. at the last line.

No. XXIV.—For Choir alone; may be sung after this manner—v. i. solo; 2, quartette; 3, solo; 4, full choir. At no place should the Choir sing forte.

No. XXV.—To be sung almost in a whisper; the chords to be semidetached and not too slow.

No. XXVI.—Intended for a children's service. There is no pause between each question and answer.

No. XXVII.—It is due to myself and the authoress of these words to say that the words were written to the music, which was composed for the well-known carol, " Like silver lamps "; this was necessary, as permission was refused of the owners of the copyright of these words to insert them in this book.

No. XXVIII.—An alternative tune will be found in the collection of carols compiled by the Rev. R. R. Chope, M.A.

No. XXX.—Alternative harmonies will be found in the collection published by Novello, Ewer & Co.

No. XXXII.—It is a source of regret that, when first I saw the words to which this music was set, the version did not contain the refrain which appears in the original edition (No. 137) in that splendid hymn-book, which is strangely and undeservedly little known, I refer to the Church of England Hymn-book, edited by the Rev. Godfrey Thring, B.A.

No. XXXIV.—After making every effort, I have failed to discover the author of these original words. I trust, therefore, that if he or his relatives should chance to see this carol in my book they will communicate with me, and I will endeavour to make what amends will be required for my boldness.

No. XXXV.—A more simple version of this old carol, which is an excellent specimen of carol music, may be found in Carols New and Old referred to above.

No. XXXVI.—To be sung, as directed, with great vigour and firmness.


The practice of singing soft hymns, while kneeling, at the conclusion of a service, though new and uncommon, is generally admitted by those who have adopted it to be a most beautiful and reverent form of conclusion to it. It therefore occurred to me that it might be desirable to end a carol service in the same way. The directions placed over each hymn are suggested in the hope that the plan thus indicated will at least be adopted once; but should the service be found too long (a common complaint in the present day) an ordinary plagal Amen may be substituted for the six-fold Amen, which follows the hymn on page 54 of this book.

Edgar Pettman, St. Mary's Church, Abbey Road, N. W., October, 1892.

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