I Saw Three Ships

Published by Oxford University Press
Catalog # 0-19-386690-0

Arranged for SSA/piano
Also available with orchestration
* (rental through Oxford University Press)
Traditional Christmas Text in English
Difficulty rating (1-5): 3

 listen to I Saw Three Ships

erformed by The Michigan State University Children's Choir,
from their CD "What Sweeter Music"
Mary Alice Stollak, director

Premiered December 8, 2002 by The University of Illinois Womenís Glee Club. 

The traditional version of this carol was tripping through my head one day when I realized it might sound very cool in 5/8 rather than 6/8.  The pentatonic piano main accompanying figure came to me soon after, and then it was off to the races to write the piece. The middle section with the duet is intentionally organum like. There are certain aspects of the piece that intentionally sound like John Rutter. This piece is dedicated to Erin Grant, a wonderful singer and daughter of Joe Grant, who conducted the premiere with the University of Illinois Womenís Glee Club. Erin sang with Vox Caelestis for one season before moving out of the Chicago area. This is one of my best-selling pieces with Oxford.

*Announcing the orchestration of "I Saw Three Ships"
SSA with small orchestra

My best-selling Oxford University Press choral octavo is now available in choir/orchestral form. I hope you will consider this piece for your holiday programs!

Note: Effective September 1, 2006, rentals of music published by OUP in the USA, Central and South America, and Mexico will be handled by C.F. Peters Corporation, New York.  Sales of titles published by Oxford University Press will continue to be handled by Oxford University Press Inc. through Oxford Music Sales. See our Oxford page for more info.

I Saw Three Ships 
original SSA/piano octavo cat number 0-19-386690-0
The orchestra rental cat. number is 9780193869486

The choral octavo syncs with the orchestration; ie., purchase the choral octavo for your signers/rehearsal pianist and order the orchestral rental for your orchestra.

This orchestration was performed last year by Becky Reames at SUNY-Potsdam and by Sigrid Johnson at St. Olaf, who syndicated radio playtime of the piece around the country through Minnesota Public Radio.

The orchestration is bright and lively, appropriate for college level and up players, with the instrumental forces of the usual Rutter Christmas carol orchestrations. This means that if you have decided to do some of the familiar Rutter Christmas songs with orchestra rental parts from Oxford,  the I Saw Three Ships orchestration would be using virtually the same forces:

2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 1 trumpet, harp (could be played on synth), strings, percussion -- needs two players: glockenspiel, chimes, triangle, cymbals

For further information on renting this orchestration contact:
Frances Levy. Manager, Rental Library
212-726-6049' FAX: 212-726-6441
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
Franís e-mail is frances.levy@oup.com

Rental rates are reasonable and are on a sliding scale.
Orders should booked by October 31 at the latest.

What others say:

"We sang your arrangement of "I Saw Three Ships" in December 2003 [subsequently recorded on their first CD]. The arrangement is so fresh and I have fallen in love with your style, nuances, and innovative ways of hearing and experiencing music. The girls absolutely adored the piece."
Mark L. Stamper
Artistic Director, The Singing Girls of Texas

Featured on these recordings:


The Singing Girls of Texas of the Fort Worth Fine Arts Academy, directed by Mark Stamper. Their first CD, "When I Sing" includes "I Saw Three Ships".



MSU Children's Choir holiday CD featuring "I Saw Three Ships" and "Cradle Song" -- awesome performances! Kudos to their Grammy winning director, Mary Alice Stollak!



The 95th Annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival two-CD set recorded in Dec, 2006 includes "I Saw Three Ships" with orchestra



I saw three ships come sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning.
And what was in those ships all three on Christmas Day in the morning?
Our Saviour Christ and his lady, on Christmas Day in the morning.
Pray, whither sailed those ships all three on Christmas Day in the morning?
O they sailed into Bethlehem on Christmas Day, they sailed into Bethlehem.
And all the bells on earth shall ring,
And all the angels in heaven shall sing,
And all the souls on earth shall sing on Christmas Day in the morning.
Then let us all rejoice amain on Christmas Day in the morning.


Click to See pdf Score
         (partial score)

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