A Shepherd's Tale

Music: Richard Nye. Words: Mandy Anson
SATB chorus with descant, treble solo, children’s choir,
performance time approx 4m 30s
Range S & children: c' – f'' / A: b♭ – c'' / T: c – g' / B: F – c'
Price code: E
Complexity: ***

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Here is a charming narrative Christmas anthem that will suit combined church or school choirs who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary. A pastoral theme in 6/8 (with sections in 3/4) opens the piece on a hillside near Bethlehem. The middle section has more of a recitative character, the chorus commenting in bursts on the appearance of the angels. The third section builds on a settled and happy melody in 4/4, describing the scene at the stable. A short coda brings back the opening theme and returns the focus to the shepherds.

A Shepherd's Tale was written for the combined choirs of Dumpton School, Wimborne, Dorset, using a text written by the Head of English, Mandy Anson. It was first performed by around 150 voices in December 2006, in Wimborne Minster, under the direction of Julie Bowerman, Director of Music, Dumpton School.


On Bethlehem’s hills, a shepherd boy
Kept a dark and lonely vigil;
As elder shepherds slept ‘neath stars,
He braved the desert noises.
And so it was, on that dark night,
The boy first saw the brilliance
Of a swift-approaching angel host,
And heard their golden voices.

He turned his face up to the light;
His eyes were filled with stardust.
He heard the message that they brought
And knelt before their glory.
Then shepherds all awoke and stared,
They scarce believed his story;
A babe was born to save their souls
And deliver them from darkness.

What babe was this? Whence came his power,
But from a heavenly father?
The shepherds knelt in joyful praise,
‘Til the angel voices left them.
Then shepherds all, with little thought,
Left care of flock behind them,
And turned their steps to Bethlehem,
Where a light shone in the darkness.

And in a lowly stable there,
A mother rocked her first-born;
A son of God, a child of man,
A saviour of all mankind.
There in the hay, amongst the beasts,
The golden child was lying.
The shepherds brought a gift of love;
A lamb for this blessèd shepherd.

The shepherd boy has long since grown,
And knows the angels’ promise
Was kept upon another hill.
But from that dark, a light burst through,
And mankind knelt in wonder;
The shepherds stood upon the earth,
But felt the touch of heaven.

words © Mandy Anson and used with permission

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