An African-American spiritual, likely from the nineteenth century, Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow is a call and response Christmas carol with only two stanzas and a refrain. Like most spirituals, the tune was developed specifically for and along with the text and there is very little concrete information about its origins.
Although the text to Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow is not true to the biblical account of the Christmas story – wise men, not the shepherds, followed the star – the inaccuracy helps us to identify with its message. Ordinary people with limited means can relate better to lowly, outcast shepherds than to royal wise men so the call for the shepherds to rise up, leave everything behind, and follow a path to Jesus becomes an empowering and revolutionary call for all of us to follow in the shepherds’ footsteps – no matter our social position.
Because of its roots as an African-American spiritual, I created this piano arrangement with a relaxed, bluesy feel. I also tried to reflect the simple life of the shepherds in simple harmonies, rhythms, and overall structure. Enjoy!