Shepherd's Pipe Carol

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"Shepherds' Pipe Carol"
Published1967 (1967)
GenreChristmas carol
Composer(s)John Rutter

The "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" is a modern Christmas carol composed by John Rutter. Rutter composed the carol whilst he was an undergraduate at university in 1966 with it being published a year later at the behest of David Willcocks.[1][2]


The "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" was composed by John Rutter in 1966 when he was 18 and studying as an undergraduate at Clare College at the University of Cambridge.[1][2] Rutter stated that he believed his inspiration for writing it came from when he sang as a boy soprano during the opera "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and heard pipe music as the title character headed for Bethlehem with the Biblical Magi.[3]

The carol was first performed by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge conducted by Rutter at a Christmas concert.[2] A few days later, David Willcocks, the director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, requested a copy of Rutter's manuscript for the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" and made calls to EMI for the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" to be published in 1967.[2] It was Rutter's first composition to be published.[4] Rutter and Willcocks later formed a publishing partnership and helped to compile the Carols for Choirs series of hymnals from the second edition for the Church of England.[5]

Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, choirs in the Baltic states reportedly circulated photocopies and faxes of the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" to be sung as a sign of resistance to Soviet control.[3][6]

Lyrics and score[edit]

The lyrics of the "Shepherd's Pipe Carol", set after the annunciation to the shepherds, are in third person about a shepherd boy playing pipe music on the way to Bethlehem.[7] The boy later states in the carol that he will perform his music for the baby Jesus when he reaches the stable where the Star of Bethlehem was located.[7] The music is scored for SATB and organ or small orchestra.[8]


  1. ^ a b Rutter, John. "All together now". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Composer Who Owns Christmas". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  3. ^ a b Green, Andrew (2001). "Shepherd's Pipe Carol (Rutter) - from CDA67245". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  4. ^ Classical Music (2010-11-29). "World of John Rutter, composer and conductor". Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  5. ^ "RUTTER: Requiem / Anthems". Naxos Records. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  6. ^ "I'm not in the business of making artistic claims for myself". BBC Music Magazine. Vol. 3 no. 1–6. BBC. 1994. p. 42. ISSN 0966-7180.
  7. ^ a b "John Rutter – Shepherd's Pipe Carol Lyrics". Genius Lyrics. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  8. ^ "Shepherd's Pipe Carol - John Rutter". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2018-12-10.

External links[edit]