Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Sing-Along

By: DisneyVillain

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Uploaded on December 06, 2007 by DisneyVillain Powered by YouTube

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is a Christmas hymn or carol written by Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley. It first appeared in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739. The original opening line was "Hark! how all the welkin rings"; the version known today is the result of alterations by various hands. One of the original tunes that "Hark! How all the welkin rings" was sung to was also used as a tune for "Amazing Grace". Many hymns in the eighteenth century consisted merely of printed words without music. It was left to those leading the singing to choose an appropriate tune based on the metre of the verse. Wesley himself, however, envisaged his lyrics sung to the same tune as his Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise.
Join the triumph of the skies.
With th'angelic hosts proclaim
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King!

The tune that is now almost always used for this carol is based on a chorus composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840, part of his cantata Festgesang to commemorate the printer Johann Gutenberg and the invention of his printing press. The cantata was first presented at the great festival held at Leipzig. Festgesang's second chorus, "Vaterland, in deinem Gauen", was adapted in 1855 by William Hayman Cummings. Mendelssohn said of the song that it could be used with many different choruses but that it should not be used for sacred music. This may be because the melodic and harmonic structure of the tune are similar to the Gavotte of Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 4; indeed Mendelssohn (who has always been linked with the music of Bach) may simply have adapted Bach's music for his chorus, as was proposed by Nigel Poole with his (transposed) arrangement of the Gavotte as Bach's Christmas Carol.

The most popular arrangement of the Mendelssohn tune for "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is probably that by Sir David Willcocks (published 1961 in Carols for Choirs) which adds a descant for the third verse, in addition to the basic Cummings harmonisation for the first two verses.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has been for many years the recessional hymn of the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was also sung at the end of the animated Christmas special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by the entire Peanuts gang, and all three verses were included at the end of the book version, albeit with one alteration; the lyrics "Off-spring of the Virgin's womb" were replaced with "Finding here his humble home".

Merry Christmas to all.

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