Growing up in the Anglican tradition, I came to know the carol “Once in Royal David’s City” as the carol that kicked off a Lessons and Carols service. A child always sang the first verse and then the congregation joined in on the second verse. I didn’t realize until later in my life that the carol was actually written as a poem for children by Cecil Alexander but had made its way into the broader hymn repertoire of the church.
In my first few years leading contemporary services of lessons and carols I always avoided this carol because I wasn’t sure it would work in that context. A few years ago I started to use it and was glad I did. I ended up writing a new verse (verse 4) to get into a bit more detail about why Jesus came.
We recently recorded my arrangement of this carol as the opening track on our Advent EP, “For Our Salvation“, with full band, a string section (orchestrated and produced by my friend Joshua Spacht), and children’s choir conducted by my sister-in-law, Caroline Crocker.
I wanted to offer it as a free download in case you’d like to try it with your congregation.
You can listen to it here: