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You come down from the stars

“Tu scendi dalle stelle” (Italian: [tu ʃˈʃendi dalle ˈstelle]; “From Starry Skies Thou Comest”, “From Starry Skies Descending”, “You Came a Star from Heaven”, “You Come Down from the Stars”) is a Christmas carol from Italy, written in 1732 in Nola by Saint Alfonso Liguori in the musical style of a pastorale. Though found in numerous arrangements and commonly sung, it is traditionally associated with the zampogna, or large-format Italian bagpipe.

The melody and original lyrics for the hymn were written by Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, a prominent Neapolitan priest and Scholastic philosopher (later canonized) who founded the Redemptorist missionary order. In 1732, while staying at Convent of the Consolation, one of his order’s houses in the small city of Deliceto in the province of Foggia in southeastern Italy, he wrote the Christmas song that begins “You come down from the stars” entitled “Little song to Child Jesus”. This version with Italian lyrics actually came after the original song written in Neapolitan entitled “For Jesus’ birth” and that begins Quanno nascette Ninno (When the child was born) and sometimes referred to as the “Carol of the Bagpipers” (Canzone d’i zampognari).[1] Since that time, the “Little song to Child Jesus” became a widely popular Christmas carol in Italy.

There are several translations of the lyrics into English styled after that of the King James Bible; one of these translations is given below.[2] At least one translation into modern English also exists,[3] as well as a literal translation into English of the Neapolitan “Quanno nascette Ninno”.[4] The piece was also published in 1932 by A. Paolilli’s Music Co. of Providence, Rhode Island. That version credits the music composition to Tommaso Capocci and the words to Pope Pius IX and does not mention the earlier work.

Italian-American tenor Sergio Franchi originally recorded the traditional Italian version on a Durium (Italy) single (n.d.) and a Durium LP released in the USA in 1965. He also recorded a slightly updated arrangement of this song on his 1965 RCA Victor Billboard Top 40 album The Heart of Christmas (Cuor’ Di Natale).[5]

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