Carols for Choirs

Books of choral music, mainly for Christmas

9780193532229 (Vol 1)WebsiteCarols for Choirs on

Carols for Choirs is a collection of choral scores, predominantly of Christmas carols and hymns, first published in 1961 by Oxford University Press. It was edited by Sir David Willcocks and Reginald Jacques, and is a widely used source of carols in the British Anglican tradition and among British choral societies.[1] A second volume was published in 1970, edited by David Willcocks and John Rutter, and the collection is now available in six volumes. A compendium edition was published later. In addition to music for Christmas, the collection also offers works that are suitable for other Christian festivals such as Advent and Epiphany.

The books contain commonly performed carols and their harmony arrangements, with descants from the editors (mainly Willcocks) which have become the de facto standard descants for these tunes in the Anglican communion in the UK. Most of the arrangements were originally written for use by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge or the Bach Choir in London.


A choir singing from Carols for Choirs in the Natural History Museum, London

Carols For Choirs was originally launched by the organist and music editor at Oxford University Press Christopher Morris. Whilst working at St George's, Hanover Square, he realised that church choirs lacked a definitive book of Christmas carols, and felt that a single book would be more convenient than using separate pieces of sheet music and hymn books.[2] Under his direction, the first book of Carols for Choirs was commissioned. The book was originally to be called Carols for Concerts.[3] To edit the collection, Morris enlisted David Willcocks, Director of Music at King's College, Cambridge, and Reginald Jacques, conductor of the Bach Choir.[4] The book was published in 1961, containing new arrangements of traditional carols, but it also popularised pieces by modern composers such as William Walton, Benjamin Britten, Richard Rodney Bennett, William Mathias and John Rutter.[5] Carols for Choirs was an instant success and became OUP Music Department's best-selling title, with over a million copies being sold.[2] OUP were keen to commission a second volume, but after the death of Jacques in 1969, a new editor had to be found to support Willcocks, and an undergraduate at Cambridge University, John Rutter, was recruited. Carols for Choirs 2 was published in 1970.[4]

The Carols For Choirs series have become standard choral texts throughout the English-speaking world and were highly influential; according to the composer John Rutter, they "changed the whole sound of Christmas for everybody who sings".[2][5]

On 29 December 2021, it was announced that a new volume, Carols for Choirs 6, would be published in the summer of 2023. A poll was released to suggest the colour of the new book, the most popular colour being purple.[6] The volume was released on 13 July 2023, featuring fifty carols (both originals and arrangements).


Choir singers sometimes refer to the books by the colours of their covers, with the "green" and "orange" books (volumes 1 and 2) being the most widely used. The "blue" book (volume 3) contains a number of longer anthems.[7] A compendium volume called 100 100 Carols for Choirs (the "white" book) consisting of 74 of the most popular items from Carols for Choirs 1, 2 and 3, plus 26 pieces new to the series was published in 1987. It contains both accompanied and unaccompanied items, as well as the Order of Service for a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

The "red" book (Volume 4) features fifty carols arranged for sopranos and altos.[8] Oxford University Press extended the series with volumes appropriate for other church seasons, such as Lent/Easter.[9] In July 2011, Oxford University Press published the fifth incarnation of the original series, Carols for Choirs 5, edited by composer Bob Chilcott, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first volume; it is presented in gold covers.[9]

  • Jacques, Reginald; Willcocks, David, eds. (24 August 1961). Carols for Choirs 1: Fifty Christmas Carols. OUP. ISBN 9780193532229.
  • Willcocks, David; Rutter, John, eds. (16 July 1970). Carols for Choirs 2: Fifty Carols for Christmas and Advent. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 9780193535657.
  • Willcocks, David; Rutter, John, eds. (7 September 1978). Carols for Choirs 3: Fifty Christmas Carols. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 9780193535701.
  • Willcocks, David; Rutter, John, eds. (21 August 1980). Carols for Choirs 4: Fifty Carols for Sopranos and Altos. London: OUP. ISBN 9780193535732.
  • Chilcott, Bob; Blackwell, David, eds. (2011). Carols for Choirs 5: Fifty Christmas Carols. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 9780193373563.
  • Chilcott, Bob; Hill, David, eds. (2023). Carols for Choirs 6: Fifty Christmas Carols. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 9780193551114.
  • Rutter, John; Willcocks, David, eds. (1987). 100 Carols for Choirs. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 9780193532274.

Other seasons

  • Scott, John; Dakers, Lionel, eds. (1998). Ash Wednesday to Easter for Choirs. London: OUP. ISBN 9780193531116.
  • Archer, Malcolm; Cleobury, Stephen, eds. (6 April 2000). Advent for Choirs. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-353025-6.
  • Archer, Malcolm; Scott, John, eds. (2004). Epiphany to All Saints for Choirs: Anthems for the Church's Seasons. Oxford: OUP. ISBN 978-0-19-353026-3.


Volume/number Title Composer/Source Arrangement Seasonal use
1. 1 A Great and Mighty Wonder Old German Michael Praetorius (arr.) Christmas
1. 2 Away in a Manger William Kirkpatrick David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1. 2b Away in a Manger Trad. Norman Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
1. 3 A Boy was Born Benjamin Britten Christmas
1. 4 As with Gladness Men of Old Conrad Kocher [de] David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1. 5 And there were Shepherds Johann Sebastian Bach David Willcocks (ed.) Christmas
1. 6 A Virgin Most Pure Trad. English Charles Wood (arr.) Christmas
1. 7 Angels, from the Realms of Glory Old French Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
1.8 A Christmas Carol Trad. Hungarian Zoltán Kodály (arr.) Christmas
1. 9 Blessed be that Maid Mary Trad English David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.10 Ding Dong! Merrily on High Traditional Charles Wood (harm.) Christmas
1.11 God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen Trad. English David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.12 Zither Carol Trad. Czech Malcolm Sargent (arr.) Christmas
1.13 Good King Wenceslas Piae Cantiones Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
1.14 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Felix Mendelssohn David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.15 In Dulci Jubilo Robert Lucas Pearsall Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
1.16 Infant Holy, Infant Lowly Polish David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.17 I Saw Three Ships Trad. English David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.17 I Saw Three Ships Reginald Jacques Christmas
1.18 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Traditional Arthur Sullivan (arr.) Christmas
1.19 A Merry Christmas Trad. English Arthur Warrell (arr.) Christmas
1.20 King Jesus Hath a Garden Dutch Charles Wood (harm.) Christmas
1.21 Rocking Czech David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.22 Carol, with Lullaby Phyllis Tate Christmas
1.23 Coventry Carol Traditional Christmas
1.23b Coventry Carol Traditional Martin Shaw (arr.) Christmas
1.24 No Sad Thought his Soul Affright Ralph Vaughan Williams Christmas
1.25 O Little One Sweet Old German Johann Sebastian Bach (harm.) Christmas
1.26 Adeste Fideles Traditional David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.26b O Come, All Ye Faithful Traditional David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.27 O Little Town of Bethlehem Ralph Vaughan Williams Thomas Armstrong (ed.) Christmas
1.28 O men from the fields Arnold Cooke Christmas
1.29 Sussex Carol Traditional David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.30 Once in Royal David's City Henry J. Gauntlett Arthur Henry Mann (harm.) Christmas
1.31 Past three a clock Traditional Charles Wood (arr.) Christmas
1.32 Rejoice and be merry Trad. English Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
1.33 See amid the winter's snow John Goss David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.34 Lute-book lullaby W. Ballet Martin Shaw (arr.) Christmas
1.35 The linden tree carol Old German Reginald Jacques (arr.) Annunciation / Christmas / Epiphany
1.36 The Blessed son of God Ralph Vaughan Williams Christmas
1.37 The Boar's head carol Trad English Elizabeth Poston (arr.) Christmas
1.38 The first Nowell Trad. English David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
1.39 The Holly and the Ivy Trad. English Reginald Jacques (arr.) Lent / Christmas / Epiphany
1.40 The Three Kings Peter Cornelius Ivor Atkins (arr.) Christmas
1.41 The Shepherd's farewell Hector Berlioz Christmas
1.42 Torches John Joubert Christmas
1.43 Unto us is born a son Piae Cantiones David Willcocks Christmas
1.44 Up! good Christen folk, and listen Piae Cantiones George Ratcliffe Woodward (arr.) Christmas
1.45 We've been a while a-wandering Trad. Yorkshire Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr.) Christmas
1.46 Gloucestershire Wassail Traditional Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr.) Christmas
1.47 What cheer? William Walton Christmas
1.48 When Christ was born Reginald Jacques Christmas
1.49 While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night Traditional Thomas Ravenscroft (ed.) Christmas
1.50 While the shepherds were watching Cecil Armstrong Gibbs Christmas
2. 1 A babe is born I wys Frederick Bainton Christmas
2. 2 A child is born in Bethlehem Samuel Scheidt David Willcocks (ed.) Christmas
2. 3 Adam lay ybounden Boris Ord Christmas
2. 4 All my heart this night rejoices Johann Georg Ebeling Christmas
2. 5 All this time William Walton Christmas
2. 6 Nativity carol John Rutter Christmas
2. 7 Deck the Hall Traditional (Welsh) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2. 8 Ding Dong! Merrily on high Traditional (French) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2. 9 Down in yon forest Traditional (English) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.10 Shepherd's pipe carol John Rutter Christmas
2.11 Hail! Blessed Virgin Mary Traditional (Italian) Charles Wood (arr.) Christmas
2.12 Here we come a-wassailing Traditional (English) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.13 A new year carol Benjamin Britten Christmas
2.14 How far is it to Bethlehem? Traditional (English) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.15 Matin responsory Adapted from a Magnificat by Palestrina Advent
2.16 Come, Thou Redeemer of the Earth Traditional (German) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.17 Il est né le divin enfant Traditional (French) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.18 I saw a maiden Anonymous (Basque Noel) Edgar Pettman (arr.) Christmas
2.19 Myn lyking Richard R. Terry Christmas
2.20 I sing of a maiden Patrick Hadley Christmas
2.21 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Arthur Sullivan David Willcocks (desc.) Christmas
2.22 The Cherry-Tree Carol Traditional (English) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.23 Masters in this Hall Traditional (French) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.24 Noël Nouvelet Traditional (French) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.25 Sans Day Carol Traditional (Cornish) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.26 Sir Christèmas William Mathias Christmas
2.27 O Come, O Come Emmanuel Traditional (15th century French Processional) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.28 The Shepherds' Cradle Song Karl Leuner Charles Macpherson (arr.) Christmas
2.29 Of the Father's Heart Begotten From Piae Cantiones David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.30 The Twelve Days of Christmas Traditional (English) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.31 Once in Royal David's city Henry Gauntlett, A. H. Mann David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.31 Out of your Sleep Richard Rodney Bennett Christmas
2.33 Past Three a Clock Traditional (English) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.34 Personent Hodie German, 1360 Gustav Holst (arr.) Christmas
2.35 Quelle est cette odeur agréable Traditional (French) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.36 Quem pastores laudavere Traditional (14th century German) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.37 Quittez, Pasteurs Traditional (French) John Rutter (arr.) Christmas
2.38 Resonemus Laudibus Traditional (14th century) David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.39 The angels and the shepherds Traditional (Bohemian) C. H. Trevor (arr.) Christmas
2.40 Stille Nacht Franz Xaver Gruber David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.41 The Infant King Basque Noel David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.42 There is no Rose 15th century English John Stevens (ed.) Christmas
2.43 Gabriel's message Basque Noel David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.44 The Holly and the Ivy English traditional Walford Davies (arr.) Christmas
2.45 The Lord at first did Adam make English traditional David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.46 The Truth from Above English traditional Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr.) Christmas
2.47 Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day English traditional David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.48 While shepherds Watched their Flocks from Este's Psalter David Willcocks (arr.) Christmas
2.49 Patapan Burgundian Reginald Jacques (arr.) Christmas
2.50 Zion hears the Watchmen's Voices Johann Sebastian Bach John Rutter (ed.) Christmas
2.Apx1 Hark! The herald angels sing Adapted from Felix Mendelssohn by W. H. Cummings Christmas
2.Apx2 O come, all ye faithful John Francis Wade Christmas An Advent Carol Service (order of service) Advent
3. 1 A babe is Born William Mathias Christmas Day
3. 2 A babe is Born in Bethlehem German Traditional, arr. Johann Hermann Schein
3. 3 A Child this Day is Born English Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.28 All in the Morning English Traditional, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams
3.25 Angel Tidings Moravian Traditional, John Rutter
3. 6 Angelus ad Virginem 14th century English, arr. David Willcocks
3. 9 Bethlehem, of Noblest Cities 18th century German, arr. David Willcocks
3.36 Birthday Carol David Willcocks
3.43 Boar's Head Carol English Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.10 Child in a Manger Celtic Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.11 Christ was Born on Christmas Day German Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.12 Christe, Redemptor Omnium Claudio Monteverdi
3. 5 Christmas Oratorio (3 extracts) Johann Sebastian Bach
3.13 Come all you Worthy Gentlemen English Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.14 Come, Rock the Cradle for Him Psalteriolum Harmonicum, 1642
3.26 Cradle Song Flemish Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.50 The Crown of Roses Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
3.15 Deck the Hall Welsh Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.16 Donkey Carol John Rutter
3. 7 Flemish Carol Flemish Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.42 Gabriel's Message Basque Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.17 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing Felix Mendelssohn, adapt. W. H. Cummings
3.20 He Smiles within his Cradle Austrian Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.21 Hush! my Dear, Lie Still and Slumber French Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.23 I Saw Three Ships English Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.24 Il est né le divin enfant French Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.27 In Dulci Jubilo German Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.22 In the Bleak Mid-Winter Gustav Holst
3.19 Jesus Child John Rutter
3.46 King Herod and the Cock William Walton
3.29 King Jesus Hath a Garden John Rutter
3.48 Kings of Orient John Henry Hopkins, Jr., arr. David Willcocks
3.30 Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending English Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.31 O Come, All Ye Faithful J. F. Wade
3.32 O Little Town of Bethlehem Walford Davies
3.33 Omnis mundus jocundetur Michael Praetorius
3.35 Once, as I Remember Italian Traditional, arr. Charles Wood
3.34 Psallite Unigenito Michael Praetorius
3.37 Salve Puerule Marc-Antoine Charpentier
3.39 Shepherds, in the Field Abiding French Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.40 Sing we to this Merry Company 15th century English, ed. John Stevens
3.38 Star Carol John Rutter
3.41 Stille Nacht Franz Xaver Gruber, arr. Donald Cashmore
3. 8 Sunny Bank Peter Hurford
3. 4 Susanni Richard Rodney Bennett
3.45 There is no Rose Benjamin Britten
3.App.1 This joyful Eastertide Dutch Traditional, arr. Charles Wood
3.44 Tryste Noel Herbert Howells
3.18 Wexford Carol Irish Traditional, arr. John Rutter
3.47 What Child is This? English Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
3.49 What Sweeter Music Richard Rodney Bennett
4. 1 Adeste Fideles Willcocks
4. 2 Angels, from the Realms of Glory Willcocks
4. 5 Away in a Manger Kirkpatrick Willcocks
4. 6 The Cherry Tree Carol Willcocks
4. 7 Coventry Carol Rutter
4. 8 Deck the Hall Rutter
4. 9 Ding Dong! Merrily on High Willcocks
4.10 Donkey Carol Rutter
4.11 The First Nowell Willcocks
4.13 Gabriel's Message Rutter
4.14 God Rest you Merry, Gentlemen (2 versions) Willcocks
4.15 Good King Wenceslas Piae Cantiones arr. Willcocks
4.16 Hail! Blessed Virgin Mary Wood
4.17 Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (2 verses) Mendelssohn desc. Willcocks
4.18 He Smiles within His Cradle Willcocks
4.19 The Holly and the Ivy Rutter
4.20 How Far is it to Bethlehem? Willcocks
4.21 I Saw Three Ships Willcocks Christmas
4.22 I Sing of a Maiden Hadley
4.23 Il est né le divin enfant Rutter
4.24 In Dulci Jubilo (4-part version) Pearsall
4.25 In Dulci Jubilo (3-part version) Rutter Pearsall
4.26 The Infant King Rutter
4.27 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear Sullivan Willcocks
4.28 King Jesus hath a Garden Rutter
4.30 Lute-book Lullaby Ballet Rutter
4.31 A Merry Christmas Rutter
4.32 Nativity Carol Rutter
4.33 A New Year Carol Britten
4.34 O Come, all ye Faithful Willcocks
4.36 O Little Town of Bethlehem Willcocks
4.37 Once in Royal David's City (2 versions) Gauntlett Willcocks
4.38 Past Three a Clock Rutter
4.39 Personent Hodie Rutter
4.40 Quelle est cette odeur agréable Willcocks
4.41 'Quem Pastores Laudavere' Rutter
4.42 Rocking Willcocks
4.43 See Amid the Winter's Snow Goss ed. Willcocks
4.44 Shepherd's Pipe Carol Rutter
4.45 Star Carol Pont Rutter
4.46 Stille Nacht Gruber Rutter
4.47 Sussex Carol Willcocks
4.48 There is no Rose Britten
4.49 Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day Rutter
4.50 Unto us is Born a Son Piae Cantiones arr. Willcocks
4.51 Up! Good Christen folk, and Listen Piae Cantiones ed. Woodward
4.52 A Virgin Most Pure Rutter
4.53 While Shepherds Watched Willcocks

See also


  1. ^ Whiteley, Sheila, ed. (2008). Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780748631872.
  2. ^ a b c Bannister, Matthew (21 December 2014). "Christopher Morris Obituary". Last Word. 25 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Carols for Choirs: the journey to press". OUPblog. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  4. ^ a b Beeson, Trevor (2009). "17. The Oxbridge Choirs". In Tuneful Accord : the church musicians. London: SCM. p. 141. ISBN 9780334041931.
  5. ^ a b "Christopher Morris, musician - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Oxford Choral". Facebook. 29 December 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  7. ^ Senior, Evan, ed. (1978). "Carols for Choirs 3". Music and Musicians. 27. Hansom Books: 25.
  8. ^ "Reviews". Brio. 43 (1). International Association of Music Libraries, United Kingdom Branch. 2006.
  9. ^ a b "...for Choirs Collections". Choral Series. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 5 October 2016.

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