We Three Kings Take Five

The popular Epiphany carol, “We Three Kings,” is unusual in that both the words and music were composed by the same person. The Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891) wrote the carol in 1857 for a Christmas pageant for the General Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was instructor in church music. A deacon of the Episcopal Church at the time, he was ordained as a priest in 1872.

Originally titled “Three Kings of Orient,” the carol tells of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh presented to the infant Christ-child by “wise men [kings or magi] from the East,” as recorded in gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 2, v. 1-12. It was first published in Hopkins’ collection Carols, Hymns, and Songs in 1863 and gained popularity through its inclusion in Christmas Carols Old and New (Novello, London, 1878), the Episcopal Church hymnal of 1916, and the 1928 edition of the Oxford Book of Carols, which called it “one of the most successful of modern composed carols.”

This arrangement adapts the original 6/8 meter to a swinging 5/4 reminiscent of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba) — $12.99

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