Appalachia Christmas Music

We Three Kings Of Orient Are

We Three Kings Of Orient Are is one of the most popular Christmas Carols. Just think of all the Christmas plays which use the song to show the presence of the Three Wise Men sharing their gifts with the Messiah.

The song is based on the book of Matthew. Even though most of us have that vision of 3 wise men bringing gifts from afar, the Bible doesn’t actually say there was 3 wise men. The Bible does describe 3 gifts given, and that is why most stories and songs infer that there were 3 wise men as well.

John Henry Hopkins Jr. was an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church. Hopkins preferred writing to preaching and worked for a New York newspaper as a writer and as a scribe for a church journal.

In 1857 while trying to decide what Epiphany gifts to buy for his nieces and nephews, Hopkins decided to write them a song. He chose the wise men as the subject for his gift of song. As Hopkins wrote the song he tried to imagine what those wise men must have felt as they searched for the Christ Child.

After giving the song to his nieces and nephews, Hopkins published the song in his own song book, Carols, Hymns, and Songs. During the next century when churches began to add Christmas songs to their hymnals the song was among the first carols chosen-ensuring We Three Kings Of Orient Are would become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time.

Today I’d like to share a video of them performing the song. The video doesn’t have all the instruments that the cd track does. My favorite way to hear Pap and Paul do the song-is the produced track from the cd. But there is something really special about the simplicity of them doing the song with only Paul’s accompaniment on the 12 string guitar.

While I was researching the history of the song, I kept coming across the tidbit that Hopkins was crazy about children-even though he never had any of his own. Many scholars claimed it was Hopkins’s child like love for the Christmas season which inspired him to write the song. I think Hopkins would be pleased as punch that each Christmas children dressed in bathrobes with towels tied around their heads pretend to search for the Christ child to the sound of his song.

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Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cd is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard, including the song What Child Is This?. You can go here-Pap and Paul’s Music to purchase a cd directly from me. Or you can jump over to my Etsy Shop and buy one here.

We are very grateful and humbled by all the folks who have purchased Pap and Paul’s Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU!

Tipper

*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in December of 2013.

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Jackie
    December 6, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I love that guitar and Pap’s voice.

  • Reply
    Tom
    December 6, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Wow, as usual, Pap and Paul are amazing! Great guitar playing and what a voice!

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    December 6, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    I love the history included with so many of the daily newsletters.
    Interesting and educational at the same time.
    Ya’all have a safe and blessed week.
    Remember the Reason for the Season!
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Jean
    December 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    hi tipper,grate job-beautyful song.have you ever heard the song-the holly and the ivy.god bless.jean

  • Reply
    Ed
    December 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    The choice of the 12 string guitar was brilliant. It gives the song middle east sounds akin to lute and lyre with hints a psaltery (plucked or hammered, not bowed.)

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Tipper,
    I already have The Songs of Christmas and Lamp Lighting in the Valley Cd’s from Paul and Pap and really enjoy them. Our local radio station plays lots of songs that Pap and Paul do with the entire Blind Pig Gang. They also play the Wilson Brothers Pap and his brother Ray. You can hear the Love when Donna Lynn announces the Gospel song “He Is Real”, by Chitter and Chatter…Ken

  • Reply
    colleen Holmes
    December 6, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Well, seems I keep losing my posts. My phone is fickle this sunny afternoon.

  • Reply
    colleen Holmes
    December 6, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Sang that song in church this morning. Christmas is a wonderful time a year. Here in the thumb of Michigan we have been blessed with no snow and warm temps. Good day to everyone.

  • Reply
    John Faircloth
    December 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    My brother, my best friend, Moe and I had a five year run in the role of the Three Kings. We would
    spend hours being dressed in heavy brocade fabrics, crepe hair beards and a variety of crowns. On
    Christmas Eve, during the Candlelight Service, we would process down the aisle of the Sanctuary, individually, singing a solo of a single verse of the wonderful carol. “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom…” was my verse.
    These kind of rituals are the building blocks of a life of faith, far more than “cute” or “charming” children’s programs. Thanks for your remembrance, and mine.

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry, Sr.
    December 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for making this a special season with the thoughts and music.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Tipper,
    It is amazing that whole Christmas programs, children’s especially, are based on carols…
    Some starting with “The First Noel”, “Joy To The World, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”, “We Three Kings of Orient Are”, “Away in The Manger”, “Silent Night” and sometimes ending with one of my favorites by Henry W. Longfellow…”I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” !
    Pap and Paul’s version of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” was wonderful, and I love hearing Paul play the twelve string guitar…it adds so much to the melody and mood of the song.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Pap and Paul’s rendition of the song is beautiful. I like the simple guitar accompaniment. I know I’ve said it before but I don’t care….Pap has the sweetest song on this earth!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

    I have wondered what became of the three gifts. They were rare and valuable. Were they taken with them when the family fled to Egypt ? Did they have to use them there in order to live ? The bible is silent on these questions.
    Though not often appreciated, Christmas carols have more of the gospel in them than any other songs I am familiar with. “We Three Kings” has the most to say about the “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying” as the destiny of the one they cane to honor.
    Unfortunately, Christmas songs as we commonly hear them on the radio and in the stores leave out the most important verses about redemption. And in so doing, it shows why we need it. Peace and goodwill are still being offered t “all people”.

  • Reply
    dolores
    December 6, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Today, when I was a child, we celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas. We would hang our stocking the night before and in the morning there would appear some type of candy. It was a prelude to Christmas. In our desks in school there would appear a wrapped group of hard tack candy. I went to a Catholic school and the nuns enjoyed celebrating this holiday. The picture at the start of this post reminded me of this childhood story. Oh, I have last year’s CD and I really enjoy listening to it. It is a great piece of singing!

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