Jeff Sanders' Blog

Return to aproundtable.org

Home > December 2011 > "The Back Story of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' "

"The Back Story of 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' "
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

Every year at this time my family and I watch "It's a Wonderful Life."  At the end of the movie Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and all of Bedford Falls join in singing the famous carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."  It's an appropriate song for the movie.  The movie teaches that each person's life touches so many others in ways we never dreamed.  The history of that famous Christmas carol teaches the same thing.  So who wrote this famous and beloved song?  

Many people think Charles Wesley wrote it. . . . and they are mostly right.  In 1739 the famous hymnwriter wrote a poem, but the first line was not what we sing today.  It began "Hark how all the welkin rings/ Glory to the King of kings. . . ."  Yep, very familiar line to all of us.  Not.  

No wonder this poem was not too popular. . . . ."welkin?"  What in the world is a "welkin?"  It's an old Anglo-Saxon word for the vault of heaven where the angels dwell.  Charles was a great hymnwriter, but he kinda missed it on this one.  Fortunately a contemporary English evangelist, George Whitefield, came along and changed the wording (without Charles' approval).  Rev. Whitefield amended the line to what we are familiar with: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Glory to the newborn King."  

Charles was not pleased, but hey, what are you gonna do?  Whitefield knew what words would "ring" with the populace, and he scored big with this one. But. . . . . .we still have the problem of not having a tune for the poem.  Time goes on, and still no tune.  Until the mid-19th century, long after Wesley and Whitefield are gone.  Felix Mendelssohn, the great German composer wrote in 1840 a tune to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Gutenberg printing press.  That's right. . . .music to celebrate technology.  Mendelssohn was adamant that his music NOT be used for religious purposes, but only for secular themes.  Little did know that someday, his tune for "Festgesang an die Kunstler" would be wed to Wesley/Whitefield's poem to celebrate the birth of Christ.

And now we meet Dr. William Cummings.  Yes, that famous organist you have all heard about.  That household name Dr. William Cummings.  Well. . . . maybe not so famous.  Anyway, in 1855 this unknown organist took the tune of Mendelssohn and united it with the poem, and the following year Christians began singing this song for Christmas.  And today this carol is joyfully sung in every corner of the world at Christmastime.  

No one does it alone.  Everyone is important.  You just never know how what you and I are doing today will be used in some way we never dreamed of. . .to bless others.  

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 08:30 AM

Email to a Friend  |  Printer Friendly Page  |  Permalink | Comments

Bookmark and Share


Jeff Sanders' Bio

Home

Past Posts

Who Are The Antifa
08/30/17
Mayweather vs McGregor
08/28/17
Flight 93 Memorial
08/27/17
Dunkirk--the Movie
07/31/17
Languages
07/30/17
Chez Thony
07/25/17
My Wife and I-- the Foodies
07/24/17
Montreal Canada, What a Great City!
07/23/17
Tolkien, Lewis, Aeneas, and Paul
06/30/17
Archive

August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009


Search this blog:



Copyright 2008 American Policy Roundtable