Once in Royal David’s City Sheet Music
This 19th century carol featuring music composed by H J Gauntlett and words written by C F Alexander has been popular for well over a century.
It is most famous as the opening carol from the traditional 9 Lessons and Carols that are a staple of the Christmas celebrations in the Western classical tradition. Each year, a carol service is broadcast globally from King’s College, Cambridge in the U.K. on Christmas Eve.
The candlelit service begins with Once in Royal David’s City sung as a processional carol. The choir gather at the back of the chapel and the opening verse is sung by an unaccompanied solo treble voice. The choir then join in for verse 2 and then the congregation join in for the remainder of the carol as the choir processes to the front of the chapel and take their places in the choir stalls. It is one of the most beautiful moments of the service.
Once in Royal David’s City Piano Techniques
This arrangement for piano is effectively a 3 part harmonisation of the carol which should be accessible to most piano players, but does have some challenging sections that will require some slow and steady practice.
There are some tricky moments to work on such as the parallel 6ths in the right hand in bars 2-3. Parallel 6ths create a lovely rich sound that works very well in piano music. They are similar to the typical parallel 3rds you find, but the 3rd is lowered an octave to be played below the melody line.
In bars 6 – 8 there is an accompanying quaver (quarter note) pattern in the right hand alongside the sustained melody which will require some careful practice. It is important to take notice of the suggested fingering for this section as it will enable you to play the melody line and accompanying pattern smoothly.
1 Once in Royal David’s City
Stood a lowly cattle shed;
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for his bed;
Mary was that mother mild
Jesus Christ her little child.
2 He came down to earth from heaven
Who is God and Lord of all;
And his shelter was a stable
And his cradle was a stall:
With the poor and mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
3 And through all his wondrous childhood
He would honour and obey,
Love and watch the gentle mother
In whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all should be
Kind, obedient, good as he.
4 For he is our childhood’s pattern:
Day by day like us he grew,
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us he knew;
And he feeleth for all our sadness,
And he shareth in all our gladness.
5 And our eyes at last shall see him,
Through his own redeeming love,
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above;
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone.
6 Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.