Monday, January 4, 1982

Today in Music (1882): “Away in a Manger” first published

Away in a Manger

James Ramsey Murray (music), Charles H. Gabriel (words)

Writer(s): James Ramsey Murray (music), Charles H. Gabriel and John T. MacFarland (words) (see lyrics here)

Published: January 4, 1882

First Charted: January 9, 1999 (Reba McEntire)

Peak: 67 CW, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions – all versions): -- radio, 65.28 video, 74.80 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This “beloved Christmas carol” CFM was first published in the late 19th century. 1883 marked the 400th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther, a German priest from the 16th century and it is believed that “Away in a Manger” was written for the occasion. HA The original title was “Luther’s Cradle Song” and the two-stanza tune appeared in the Boston newspaper The Congregationalist on January 4, 1882. HA

Because of the history of the song and its original title, it has been mistakenly credited to Luther, but this has been debunked. The only German text found for the song is from 1934 and what appears to be an awkward translation from the English original. In addition, the style of the carol is atypical of Luther. WK

The song’s first appearance in a hymnal was in 1885 when it was published in the Evangelical Lutheran Sunday School collection Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families. CFM It was set to the tune “St. Kilda” by J.E. Clark, but that version has not endured. HA

Two years later, James Ramsey Murray published the song in Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses. This version was set to the melody of “Mueller” GB which is believe to be composed in 1837 by Jonathan Spilman. CFM In 1892, Charles H. Gabriel published Murray’s version with a third verse in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs. This third verse has sometimes been mistakenly attributed to John T. MacFarland.

In 1895, the song was adapted by the American composer William Kirkpatrick to the melody of “Cradle Song.” GB This is the version more commonly used in the UK and Ireland. GB


First posted 12/22/2023.

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