The First Nowell (also written The First Noël) is a traditional classical English carol, most likely from the 18th century, although possibly earlier.
The word Noel comes from the French word Noël meaning “Christmas”, from the Latin word natalis “birthday”.
The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale.
The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.
They lookèd up and saw a star
Shining in the east, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
And by the light of that same star
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
This star drew nigh to the northwest,
Over Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.
Then did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered it them for to see,
And found the Babe in poverty.
Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon the knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Between an ox stall and an ass,
This Child truly there He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in a manger, among the hay.
Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.
If we in our time shall do well,
We shall be free from death and hell;
For God hath prepared for us all
A resting place in general.
The University of Utah Singers perform “The First Noel” arr. by Dan Forrest live in concert, December 11th & 12th, 2009 in Libby Gardner concert hall under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred.