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[John Kirkpatrick]

John Kirkpatrick et al sang his song Chariots in 1998 on their Fellside CD Wassail!. This CD is the culmination of a project instigated by Folkworks, the North of England Folk Music Development Agency, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. The “Wassail!” tour took place in November and December 1995, and again, with minor modifications, in December 1997. The programme was researched and prepared by John Kirkpatrick. He noted:

Just when you were enjoying all that pagan imagery, here comes a full blown statement of the Christmas story. But without any disrespect to anyone’s beliefs, it is worth noting that the symbol of a baby being born in the middle of winter, bringing the promise of new life, new hope, a new start, is so potent that it crops up in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and many other non-Christian cultures. The new birth represents the return of the Unconquered Sun, the giver of life and light.

Chariots is the second song commissioned for the “Wassail!” project by Folkworks, and was completed with financial assistance from Northern Arts. The piece works as a simple song, but for the tour I arranged it for five vocal parts which were performed by a different guest choir each night. There is also a simpler three-part version available. The original score also included three instrumental parts and a chord chart, and a full orchestral score has since been made by Andy Baker of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. All these versions are mutually compatible, and for details of their availability in written form, please write to “Chariots”, Squeezer Music, Huntingdon Hall, Crowngate, Worcester, WR1 3LD.

This track was also included in 2006 on the Free Reed anthology Midwinter.

Nowell Sing We Clear sang Chariots on their 2000 CD Just Say Nowell. They noted:

John Kirkpatrick was commissioned to write a couple of new carols for a “Wassail!” tour organised by Folkworks in the north of England in 1995. One was this new classic, through-composed for band, solo voices and a small choir.

Melrose Quartet sang Chariots on their 2019 CD The Rudolph Variations. This video was filmed and edited by Elly Lucas:


John Kirkpatrick sings Chariots

O Shepherd o shepherd come leave off your piping
Come listen come learn come hear what I say
For now is the time that has long been forespoken
For now is the time there’ll be new tunes to play
For soon there comes one who brings a new music
Of sweetness and clarity none can compare
So open your heart for heavenly harmony
Here on this hill will be filling the air

Chorus (after each verse):
With chariots of cherubim chanting
And seraphim singing Hosanna
And a choir of archangels a-caroling come
Hallelujah Hallelu
All the angels a-trumpeting glory
In praise of the Prince of Peace

See on yon stable the starlight is shimmering
And glimmering and glistening and glowing with glee
In Bethlehem blest this baby of bliss will be
Born here before you as bold as can be
And you’ll be the first to hear the new symphony
Songs full of gladness and glory and light
So learn your tunes well and play your pipes proudly
For the Prince of Paradise plays here tonight

Bring your sheep bleating to this happy meeting
To hear how the lamb with the lion shall lie
It’s mooing and braying you’ll hear the song saying
The humble and lowly will be the most high
Let the horn of the herdsman be heard up in heaven
For the gates are flung open for all who come near
And the simplest of souls shall sing to infinity
Lift up and listen and you shall hear

The warmonger’s charger will thunder for freedom
The gun-maker’s furnace will dwindle and die
And muskets and sabers and swords shall be sundered
Surrendered to the sound that is sweeping the sky
And the shoes of the mighty shall dance to new measures
And the jackboots of generals shall jangle no more
As sister and brother and father and mother
Agree with each other the end to all war

As a candle can conquer the demons of darkness
As a flame can keep frost from the deepest of cold
So a song can give hope in the depths of all danger
And a line of pure melody soar in your soul
So sing your songs well and sing your songs sweetly
And swear that your singing it never shall cease
So the clatter of battle and drums of disaster
Be drowned in the sound of the pipes of peace