Hymn by Hymn

STLT#255, There’s a Star in the East

How many of you, like me, pass this one by, year after year, because it’s an unfamiliar “title” and takes up two pages? Raise your hands.

Me too!

And how many of those with your hands up never realized this was the old spiritual “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow”?

Really? Just me?

I didn’t think so.

This is what fan of the series Kaye talks about a lot – how using only the first line can hide songs we know and love from people not giving more than a cursory glance at the page, like most of us. I mean, I only discovered this was that song because of this series, and now I feel sad for Christmasses past that didn’t get this song in celebration.

Anyway, it’s a great carol and a great spiritual, one which may have been coded to direct enslaved Africans to freedom by following the North Star. I can only find one reference to that, but it fits.

There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn,
rise up, shepherd, and follow.
It will lead to the place where the babe is born;
rise up, shepherd, and follow.

(Chorus)
Leave your ewes and leave your lambs,
rise up, shepherd, and follow.
Leave your sheep and leave your rams,
rise up, shepherd, and follow.
Follow, follow, rise up, shepherd, and follow.
Follow the star of Bethlehem,
rise up, shepherd, and follow.

If you hark to the angel’s holy word,
rise up, shepherd, and follow.
You’ll forget your flock, you’ll forget your herd;
rise up, shepherd, and follow.

(Chorus)

Of course, as with any song not our own, care must be taken to not appropriate – offering context, even on Christmas, does matter.

If you want to see it done badly, search for this song on YouTube. I promise you will find a plethora of Very White People versions of this song out there. Fortunately, there were a few sung in African American or multicultural contexts, such as this fantastic one from the Middle Community Chorus:

“Rise Up Shepherd, and Follow” :: Jan 4 @middlechurch from Middle Collegiate Church on Vimeo.

This makes me wanna rise up.

One thought on “STLT#255, There’s a Star in the East

  1. I loved loved loved that video clip you shared. It helped me to overcome my usual Christmas song antipathy and actually enjoy one for one glorious moment — thank you!

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