Appalachia Christmas Music

What Child is this?

What Child is This

I don’t recall hearing the Christmas song What Child Is This? until I was nearly grown. Because of that, I had it in my mind that the song was of modern origin for years.

After Pap and Paul recorded the song, I learned the song is actually very old and hails from England. The tune of the song is the same as the tune to the folk song Greensleeves which dates as far back as the 1600s. The words to What Child Is This? were penned by William Chatterton Dix in the 1800s. To read the full story of how the tune and the words came together to make the song we know today jump over and visit this blog.

The Christmas song has a haunting reverent quality about it, I believe Pap and Paul’s harmony, along with Pap’s high tenor voice make the song even more haunting-see if you don’t agree. 

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.


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  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    December 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

    What a beautiful version of “What Child is This?”! Is the CD available as a digital download or only by ordering a CD?

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    December 5, 2016 at 8:30 am

    This was my second Christmas piano recital piece, and I still have the 49-year-old sheet music. Hauntingly beautiful musically and lyrically for sure. On a lighter note, (which I hope doesn’t offend your followers), I attended the Balsam Range Art of Music Festival this weekend where they performed “What Child Is This” with an artist from the Zac Brown band. He had an incredible voice and proved to have a keen sense of humor, too, adding this to his introduction of the song: “or as we say up here in the mountains, ‘reckon’ whose youngin’ this is?’ ”

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I learned Greensleeves as a piano piece during my year of torment (=piano lessons at age 9), and only learned the Christmas version much later. Such a beautiful song, any way you hear it!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 4, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Don’t we wish we had been told more about the relationship between Mary and Jesus. We are given few clues but I have no doubt she loved him as her child, quite apart from who else he was. One of the most memorable moments of my life is when I saw my wife fall in love with our daughter. I happened to be looking at her face the first time she saw her and there are no adequate words of mine to describe what happened. She was transformed in a moment and frankly, to my dismay, I was very briefly jealous. I remember thinking, “She will never love me like that.” And she hasn’t but she shouldn’t.
    As parents we often have cause to wonder about our own, “What child is this?” when they surprise us with their gifts and their insights.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I just finished watching The Pressley Girls and Paul and You in a concert back in June
    at the Festival Barn. The Deer Hunter videoed all this and I thought it was wonderful. It was nice to have Paul join in a lot of the songs and the last song was a real treat.
    “My Home is in Brasstown.” That was very fitting and well chosen. …Ken

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Paul and Pap’s Christmas Cd is my favorite cause I like the old timey sound best. And it has the clarity, you can understand every word. …Ken

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    December 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Absolutely fantastic!

  • Reply
    Cynthia Schoonover
    December 4, 2016 at 11:58 am

    The Songs of Christmas cd I won is now my favorite Christmas cd. The instrumentals, the clear voices, everything about it is wonderful. I listened to half of it on the way to work, and the other half on the way home. It made my drive so pleasurable.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 4, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I did jump over and read the blog to which you referred. Two things struck me as having significance.
    The first is the phrase “Many conservative Puritan churches forbade gift-giving, decorating or even acknowledging the day as a special day for fear that Christmas would become a day of pagan rituals more than a serious time of worship.”
    That, sadly, has happened!
    The second “While the baby was the focal point of the song, the point of view of the writer seemed to be that of a confused observer.”
    I tried put myself in the position of an observer on that momentous occasion. As an observer, knowing what I know, I can understand why the blogger might think the songwriter was confused. As an observer of the time, not knowing the outcome of this, arguably the most important moment in human history, I too would be confused.
    “What child is this?” Why is this child the center of attention? Why this child in particular when so many more were born this day? Hindsight is 20/20, a phrase often quoted, is apropos here. Witnesses to the blessed event had no way of knowing of the future. What is special about this child? The angels knew but they were there to proclaim the sacred birth not to explain its connotations.
    Mark Lowry used a similar approach in his “Mary did you know?” He is asking the mother of Jesus whether she really understood implications of the product her labor. In both cases the listener should transport themselves back 2000 years and hear the words from the prospective of a simple sheepherder who just happened to wander in from the field.
    I loved the use of the psaltry and the 12 string guitar in this number. That, combined with the pleasant voices of Pap and Paul made for some serious visualization here in the Ammons household this lovely rainy morning. Thank You!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Wow, what a beautiful song!

  • Reply
    Nancy Schmidt
    December 4, 2016 at 10:51 am

    You have probably learned by now that the song Greensleeves is reputed to have been written by King HenryVIII, in the 1500s. There is a good bit of interesting background about the tune and verses in line of course.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 4, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I love both Pap and Paul’s singing in What Child is This. The rhythmic swinging from saddest minor to brightest major chord and back again speaks to not just birth, but life, death, and resurrection.

  • Reply
    larry griffith
    December 4, 2016 at 8:31 am

    That was really good.I think we sung that in grade school back in the 50’s.Not sure,can’t really remember.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 4, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Your right Tip, this song has a haunting quality to it, even more so with Paps sweet voice on it.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 4, 2016 at 8:13 am

    The song is beautiful fits with the music from Greensleeves perfectly. It is one of my favorites. I also thank you for sharing the blog. Interesting.

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