“Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the new born king.”
No surprise. I heard classic, jazz, rock, and cowboy/country versions of this famous Christmas carol recently. ‘Tis the season. Some tunes have remarkable staying power. Charles Wesley’s testimonial hymn about the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus the Christ has been around since 1739.
What We Consider Matters
Most folks can mumble and hum through parts of the first verse and chime in on the chorus. An earlier version was popular and well-known to those Founders that folks have been referring to in vain quite a lot lately. The hymn appeared in the hymnals of most Protestant churches of the day. Wesley’s initial music dates back to 1210.
The Music Changes
The famous first line was changed by George Whitefield in 1840. Even by then almost no one remembered or employed the word that Wesley used - welkin (for heavens). Herald angels managed to stick. The most common music for the hymn is Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s version also from 1840. Mendelssohn’s music was originally produced to commemorate the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Who knew? Why celebrate the printing press? More people could read the Bible every day. That is a dangerous thing to do.
Most enjoy that Dickens like Christmas atmosphere we now culturally associate with such carols. I’m surprised and I am not surprised that amazon doesn’t stream them on the shopping sites like old school department store and elevator music.
The Story Remains the Same
In 1905, O. Henry published his most famous short story, The Gift of the Magi. That is a tale that still sticks in my head every Christmas season. Read it and read it to your kids or grandchildren. It is short and sweat and freely available on the web. It produces some required balance to the holiday cartoon fairy tales of St Nick, Rudolf, and the Grinch.
What goes in is what comes out.