Iain Farrington

Pianist, organist, composer, arranger

Run shepherds for SATB Choir and Piano


Run, shepherds is a setting of a 17th century poem by William Drummond. The text is a paraphrase on the angels’ proclamation to the shepherds, announcing the birth of Jesus. It is a poem that contrasts energy and excitement with intimacy and wonder, and this setting closely follows these changing moods. The musical style is decidedly un-Anglican, with strong jazz harmony and rhythms, nightclub piano figurations and exuberant gospel choir exclamations. The opening words ‘Run, shepherds, run’ are used as a lively refrain that are repeated at various points in the piece. After the initial burst of energy, the scene shifts to the ‘poor cottage inned’, with the music taking on a slow bluesy after-hours quality. The atmosphere darkens as the significance and ultimate tragedy of this event is realised. This is swiftly dispatched with a recurrence of the opening positive music, and the final words are sung with a swinging gospel-influenced exaltation.


Run, shepherds was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Musicians for their annual carol service. It was first performed on December 10th 2014 by the choir of St Michael’s Cornhill, London, conducted by Jonathan Rennert.


Duration: 4.5 mins


Listen to a live performance of the work here:


Run shepherds (4’35”)


Run shepherds, run where Bethlehem blest appears,

We bring the best of news, be not dismayed:

A Saviour there is born, more old than years

Amidst Heaven's rolling heights this earth who stayed;


In a poor cottage inned, a Virgin Maid,

A weakling did Him bear, who all upbears,

There is He poorly swaddled, in manger laid

To whom too narrow swaddlings are our spheres:


Run shepherds, run, and solemnize His birth.

This is that night - no, day grown great with bliss,

In which the power of Satan broken is;

In Heaven be glory, peace unto the Earth,


William Drummond



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