Annabeth McClelland Gay (b. Ottawa, IL, 1925) composed SHEPHERDS' PIPES in 1952, and her husband matched it with a hymn text to send as Christmas greetings. She wrote, "When I played it for him, he said, 'I wonder if Palestinian shepherds played on pipes, because that's what this tune reminds me of.' So his text followed ("The Shepherds' Pipes on Bethlehem's Heights") and from the text, the tune name."
The tune was first published in Pilgrim Hymnal (1958) with T. T. Lynch's text 'The Lord Is Rich and Merciful." Gay was organist and choir director in churches in New York and Ohio, including the Hale United Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio, where her husband served as pastor. She was educated at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, and received a masters degree in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary, New York City. Other of her hymn tunes were combined with texts by her husband and sent with Christmas greetings; "Carol of Hope" was included in Worship II.
Dale Grotenhuis (PHH 4) harmonized SHEPHERDS' PIPES in 1985. In a minor tonality, this tune offers melodic repetitions and dependable rhythms. To do justice to this text, use a marcato performance.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988