Listen to the beginner piano arrangement of O Little Town of Bethlehem.
The text was written by Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), an Episcopal priest, who served a church in Philadelphia. In 1865, he visited the village of Bethlehem. Inspired by his memory of that visit, he wrote the poem, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for his church and asked the organist, Lewis Redner, to write the music. Redner told the story of his composition in 1924:
“As Christmas of 1868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, ‘Redner, have you ground out that music yet to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? I replied, ‘No,’ but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.”
* This hymn arrangement is also available in our books: