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Although often ascribed to Martin Luther, both the words and tune(s) for this carol are American in origin. The text perhaps dates from the 1883 celebration of the 400th anniversary of Luther's birth - which was observed by American Lutherans by the thousands - and may have been the text of a children's drama. The first printed record of the first two verses appeared in a Little Children's Book for Schools and Families (1885); the third verse was published in Charles H. Gabriel's Gabriel's Vineyard Songs (ca. 1904).
The text has been sung to dozens of different tunes over the years, many of which are preserved in older hymnals and songbooks; however, two tunes in particular have become standard in modern publications. The earliest of these - and the less familiar, at least in America - is by William J. Kirkpatrick, a writer of hymn tunes and a civil war soldier. Now popular primarily in Britain, it was first published in Kirkpatrick's Around the World with Christmas. The tune familiar to most Americans appeared approximately two years later in James R. Murray's Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (1887); this version was entitled "Luther's Cradle Hymn."
This arrangement comes with an additional Beginners' third violin part, and an optional bass part for use with string orchestra.
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