The First Noel is getting a lot of cover this year. Few however are covering it with such love and emotion as what we hear in this wonderful blend in a new arrangement:
This version of The First Noel was composed and arranged by Jared Pierce, who is playing the piano in this video. The video was the concluding number of the first virtual Christmas on Temple Square concert titled “Celebrating the Light of the World”.
The word Noel has many meanings. To the French it means “Christmas” but in other languages it means “to be born”.
“The First Noel” is one of the oldest known Christmas carols. Who originally wrote it and the backstory of its creation is unknown. It is believed to have emerged from the 13th century, a period when “Miracle Plays” were held as a means of teaching the Nativity story. The tune is believed to be an old English folk song that is Cornish in origin.
The first Noel the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
They looked up and saw a star
shining in the east, beyond them far;
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night.
And by the light of that same star
three Wise Men came from country far;
to seek for a king was their intent,
and to follow the star wherever it went.
This star drew nigh to the northwest,
o’er Bethlehem it took its rest;
and there it did both stop and stay,
right over the place where Jesus lay.
Then entered in those Wise Men three,
full reverently upon the knee,
and offered there, in his presence,
their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
“The First Noel” was first transcribed in 1823, and was subsequently published as a part of an anthology titled “Some Ancient Christmas Carols,” in London. In 1833, the carol was published in “Gilbert and Sandys Carols.” Williams Sandys arranged and edited the carol, while Davies Gilbert pitched in with additional lyrics. Gilbert is also credited for the revival of the song in modern times.
In 1929, the English version also made an appearance in the “The Cornish Songbook.” In modern times, “The First Noel” is performed utilizing a 4 part hymn arrangement created by John Stainer, who first published it in 1871. Variations of this theme are also included in the “Carol Symphony” by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. Various French artists have covered the carol, while the French version has been made popular by Church choirs.