Christmas Music, Part 7 – Hark the Herald Angels Sing

December 07, 2022

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley (1707-1788),  the younger brother of John Wesley wrote the words to this Christmas Carol.

Charles was a hymn writer and a poet, also known as one of the people who began the Methodist movement in the Church of England. Hark the Herald Angels Sing appeared in 1739 in a book called Hymns and Sacred Poems.

Wesley envisioned this being sung to the same tune as his hymn, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,  and in some hymnals it is included along with the more popular version.

This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and published as number 403 in “The Church Hymn Book” (New York and Chicago, USA, 1872).

To celebrate the invention of the printing press, Felix Mendelssohn composed a cantata in 1840 called Festgesang or “Festival Song”. The melody of Mendelssohn’s cantata was then used by William H. Cummings and adapted it to the lyrics of Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Tags: music, christmas, methodist, hymn, hark the herald angels sing, carol, john wesley, cantata, charles wesley, christmas music, christ the lord is risen today, church of england, hymnal, felix mendelssohn, william h. cummings

2 Comments

A. Star on December 9, 2022 12:04pm

I'd suggest you correct the misinformation here and in your blog. Wesley didn't write the poem, which was a pre- existing text adapted by Whitefield, as I state above. Check your sources.

Mary on December 9, 2022 3:20pm

I just rechecked the Methodist History site at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-hark-the-herald-angels-sing and that says "Gratefully, George Whitefield (1740-1770), a powerful preacher and friend to the Wesley brothers, made several changes to this hymn in his Collection (1753). He eschewed the original first line for the scriptural dialogue between heaven and earth."

So, it appears that Wesley was first, edited by George Whitefield.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

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