Tune of the Day: While Shepherds Watched (American Version)
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” is a popular Christmas carol describing the annunciation of the birth of Christ to a group of Shepherds.
The hymn, whose words are attributed to Irish lyricist Nahum Tate (1652–1715), has been set to a number of different tunes. The version which is now most commonly used in the USA is based on a portion of the aria “Non vi piacque ingiusti dei” from the Handel opera Siroe, King of Persia, composed in 1728. As a hymn tune, this melody first appeared with a number of other arrangements from works of Handel in The Psalms of David for the use of Parish Churches (1791) by Dr. Samuel Arnold and J.W. Callcott. Arnold at the time was editing the works of Handel, so it is easy to see how he came to find so many melodies of the great Baroque composer that were suitable as hymn tunes.