Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
|"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"|
|Written by||Charles Wesley|
Performed by the U.S. Army Band Chorus
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"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. A somber man, Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the joyful tune expected today. Moreover, Wesley's original opening couplet is "Hark! how all the welkin rings / Glory to the King of Kings".
The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, notably by Wesley's co-worker George Whitefield who changed the opening couplet to the familiar one, and by Felix Mendelssohn. A hundred years after the publication of Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1840, Mendelssohn composed a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, that propels the carol known today.
In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn's secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" written by Charles Wesley. Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his song "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today", and in some hymnals, is included along with the more popular version.
In the UK, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" has popularly been performed in an arrangement that maintains the basic original William H. Cummings harmonisation of the Mendelssohn tune for the first two verses but adds a soprano descant and a last verse harmonisation for the organ in verse 3 by Sir David Willcocks. This arrangement was first published in 1961 by Oxford University Press in the first book of the Carols for Choirs series. For many years it has served as the recessional hymn of the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.
An uncommon arrangement of the hymn to the tune "See, the Conqu'ring hero comes" from Judas Maccabaeus (Handel) normally associated with the hymn Thine Be the Glory is traditionally used as the recessional hymn of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. This is broadcast live each year on Christmas Eve on RTÉ Radio 1. The usual (first) three verses are divided into six verses each with chorus. The arrangement features a brass fanfare with drums in addition to the cathedral organ and takes about seven and a half minutes to sing. The Victorian organist W. H. Jude, in his day a popular composer, also composed a new setting of the work, published in his Music and the Higher Life.
- "Hymn Texts and Tunes". Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook. Bethany Lutheran College. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- Hymns and sacred poems, Bristol, 1743, p. 142.
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing at Hymns and Carols of Christmas
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing carols.org.uk
- "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". SongFacts.
- The History And Use Hymns And Hymn-Tunes, by Rev. David Breed, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1934
- "Nine Lessons and Carols". King's College, Cambridge. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- The Musical Times, March 1944
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, National Library of Australia.
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