The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Winds Through the Olive Trees

For Christmas

Published under the title of "In Little Bethlehem"

Said to be a 16th Century Traditional Carol from Gascony

Lyrics: Katherine Parker

Composer: George W. Wilmot (in B Flat Major)
Some arrangements have been transposed to other keys.
Numerous arrangements are available on the World Wide Web.

Source: Eva D. Kellogg, Ed., Primary Education: A Monthly Journal for Primary Teachers, Volume XI, Number 10 (Boston: Educational Publishing Company, December, 1903), p. 498.

MIDI / Noteworthy Composer

1. Winds through the olive trees,
        Softly did blow.
'Round little Bethlehem,
        Long, long ago.

2. Sheep on the hillsides lay
        White as the snow,1
Shepherds were watching them,
        Long, long ago.

3. Then from the happy skies2
        Angels bent low,
Singing their songs of joy;
        Long, long ago.

4. For, in His3 manger bed
        Cradled we know,
Christ came to Bethlehem
        Long, long ago.

Footnotes:

1. Altered in some versions as "Whiter than snow." Return

2. Altered in some versions as "Then from the starry skies." Return

3. Altered in some versions as "a manger bed." Return

Sheet Music from Eva D. Kellogg, Ed., Primary Education: A Monthly Journal for Primary Teachers, Volume XI, Number 10 (Boston: Educational Publishing Company, December, 1903), p. 498.

In_Little_Bethlehem-p498-1903-c2.jpg (97365 bytes)

Sheet Music from C. Harold Lowden and Rev. Rufus W. Miller, eds., Beginner and Primary Songs for use in Sunday School and the Home (Philadelphia: The Heidelberg Press, 1915), #85, p. 78.

In_Little_Bethlehem-85.jpg (95679 bytes)

A cleaner copy of this page is available at The Hymnary: Wind Through The Olive Trees.
Additional sheet music is also available through this site.

Editor's Note:

Our thanks to "J. A. " whose note in July 2015 was very helpful in delving into the background of this carol. He had mentioned that he first played it a few years back with a group that had Salvation Army brass group books. He also mentioned having heard it in a minor key. This is one minor key version, in a medley with several other carols.

From comments posted on the World Wide Web there are memories of this song having been performed in Sunday Schools in the early years of the 20th century, both in the US and elsewhere. There are several mentions in newspapers in the early 1900s.

There have been numerous arrangements posted on the Internet. Usually the title is "Wind Through the Olive Trees," but it can also be found under "In Little Bethlehem." Most are available for a modest fee, but there are others that are without charge. A number of arrangements have been compiled on SongSelect: Winds Through the Olive Trees.

"Old Father Christmas" has a web page for Winds Through the Olive Trees, and has created a new SATB setting; it is available in a Free Sheet Music PDF and in a Midi Realization MP3.

Here is a JW Pepper preview of an arrangement by Becki Slagle Mayo with a "Traditional English Carol" and an opening in a minor key; it also incorporates "The First Noel."

Your basic search will return many other examples of arrangements.

The carol was performed by "Angela" as part of the 2013 Christmas Carol Collection at Libravox: Winds Through The Olive Trees. Direct links to the songs are at the bottom of the page; the entire collection can be downloaded as a compressed file.

A number of performances have also been posted at YouTube: Winds Through The Olive Trees, including these:

 

The comments under Tom Roush's performance shed interesting light on the background of this carol in the US.
Direct Link to Tom Roush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv6hB6fAfpg

 

Arrangement by Michael Neaum, performed during a 2004 Christmas Concert by the Chamber Choir.
Direct Link to Michael Neaum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIZpFkDr4Dc

 

Direct Link to Sandra K. Peter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZil8cKRT3U

This last YouTube performance featured the arrangement by Sandra  K. Peter, scored for Oboe and SATB Choir. Concerning this song, she wrote:

"Winds Through the Olive Trees" was widely sung in many Sunday school programs early in the 20th century. This arrangement will bring back some of those memories, as the tune is set here for adult voices and oboe. The simple Austrian carol "Still, Still, Still" is woven into the piece to further create a sense of peace and calm as one contemplates the setting of the birth of Christ. The arrangement was written for Christmas at Luther College 2008. Parts for Oboe (Violin, Flute) and Clarinet in B-flat are included in the choral score.

This arrangement is one of many that are available for purchase. This site has no relationship whatsoever with Ms. Peter.

"Winds through the Olive Trees" (Wilmot) - The Balcony Brass:

 

Finally there is this version, which we are told is in a minor key:

 

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