This is a series of posts about the #TradSongTues project, run by various people at the University of Sheffield. Every week I've been recording a song for the theme, sharing it and talking about it. Come and play on Twitter!

Last week, I sang while I walked to the shops. This week I sang as I was leaving a ceilidh calling gig, after a full weekend of singing. I wasn't in the best voice, but missing this isn't an option! Here's a version of While Shepherds Watch, to the tune of Sweet Chiming Bells.

This is a song that I learned at the Sheffield Carols. I first went in 2010 when a lecturer invited me. I asked what carol book they used, and he gave a wry smile and said "Oh, you won't know them"1.

I spent my first sing in awe of these strange songs2, and in awe of the fact we sang While Shepherd's Watched 4/5 times. This is one of my favourite variants to sing, beaten only by Pentonville (which I didn't sing because it has a fugue part that I can't sing on my own) or maybe Old Foster (which is also known as "My God, The Spring").

There's a reason there's so many variants, and it basically boils down to the fact that people were only allowed to set old bible verses to music. The While Shepherds words were one of the first sets of words that weren't bible verses that people could set to music. And so, everyone did.

  1. He was right. ↩︎

  2. I remember being incredibly happy when someone sang the Holly and the Ivy, because it was one I actually knew! ↩︎