Once in Royal David’s City


An elegant setting of the beloved Christmas hymn.  An unaccompanied solo instrument (flute, oboe, or trumpet) opens the piece, letting the beautiful melody speak for itself.  On the final phrase, a lovely but sparing accompaniment arises (strings, piano, or organ), and continues as the women sing their first verse in unison. The men in unison take the lead on the second verse, as the accompaniment gains momentum, and the women enter to provide parallel motion at the 10th.  A sudden modulation to the dominant key provides contrast for a solo instrumental verse, which is followed by a return to the home key for a four-part a cappella verse.  The solo instrument re-enters for a final interlude that nobly unfolds into a soaring descant above the grand final verse.


This score has optional musical accompaniment available (flute, string quartet | solo trumpet, organ | solo oboe, organ). To get these parts, contact skpublishinginfo@gmail.com

A licensed copy is required for each member performing.



One had great hopes for the musical Kirchner family.  Perhaps, like the von Trapps before them, the triplet siblings would grace many a stage, performing as a string trio.  But it was not to be!  Young Shawn lacked the “people skills” to allow his siblings to tolerate working with him on any such project during those tender adolescent years.

However, years later, while celebrating a Kirchner family Christmas in McPherson, Kansas (in the late 90’s?), everything fell into a place for the long-awaited “von Trapp” moment.  Soprano Anne and tenor Ryan had come into the family, and family friend Emily Tyler was nearby to play the flute.  So it was that the prototype to this “Once in Royal David City” arrangement was written on a quick whim for a Christmas Eve performance at the McPherson Church of the Brethren.  Shane, Shawn, and Ryan sang the men’s part, Shannan and Anne sang the women’s, with Shawn improvising an accompaniment at the piano, and Emily soaring above on her beautiful flute.

The arrangement was folded into a 2005 Juniata College Concert Choir commission of Christmas pieces, and the accompaniment was transformed with the addition of string quartet into the present arrangement. A subsequent performance at Disney Concert Hall by the Los Angeles Master Chorale was the occasion for a further transformation, substituting high trumpet for flute, and giving all the accompaniment over to the organ.

Additional information


SATB piano (choral score)

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