Angels we have Heard on High

The English translation of this carol was originally by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. It was first published, alongside the English tune, in The Holy Family Hymns in 1860. It became popular in the West Country, with R.R. Chope describing it as “Cornish” and the carol appearing in Pickard-Cambridge”s Collection of Dorset Carols.

Although some early descriptions such as by J.P. Migne in 1867 stated that the original French carol was an “old noel from Lorraine”, many contend that it in fact dates from either the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The first printed appearance was in Abbe Lambillottee”s Choix de cantigues sur des airs nouveaux in 1842, and interviews with elderly French-Canadian singers for a 1907 book by Ernest Myrand found that non remember the carol from their childhood, but remember it becoming popular only in the 1840s.


Angels we have heard on high,
Singing sweetly o”er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds why this jubilee
Why your joyous straings prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the new-born King!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Alternative English lyrics

Angels, we have heard your voices,
Sweetly singing o”er the plains;
Mount, and crag and hill replying,
Echo still your joyous strains:

Shepherds, why this jubilation?
Why this ecstasy of song?
Tell us what may be the tidings
That inspired the heavenly throng?

Come and see in Bethlem”s city
Him whose birth the angels sing;
And, on bended knee, adore him,
Christ the Lord, the new-born King!

See, within a manger lying,
Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth;
Aid us, Mary, aid us, Joseph,
To acclaim our Saviour”s birth.

Original French lyrics

Les Anges dans nos campagnes,
Ont entonné l’hymne des cieux ;
Et l’écho de nos montagnes
Redit ce chant mélodieux :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Bergers, pour qui cette fête ?
Quel est l’objet de tous ces chants ?
Quel vainqueur ? quelle conquête ?
Mérite ces cris triomphants :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Ils annoncent la naissance
Du Libérateur d’Israël ;
Et pleins de reconnaissance,
Chantent, en ce jour solennel :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Cherchons tous l’heureux village
Qui l’a vu naître sous ses toits ;
Offrons-lui le tendre hommage,
Et de nos cœurs et de nos voix :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Dans l”humilité profonde
Où vous paraissez à nos yeux ;
Pour vous louer, roi du monde,
Nous redirons ce chant joyeux :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Toujours remplis du mystère
Qu”opère aujourd”hui votre amour,
Notre devoir sur la terre
Sera de chanter, chaque jour :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Déjà les bienheureux Anges,
Les Chérubins, les Séraphins ;
Occupés de vos louanges,
Ont appris à dire aux humains :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Dociles à leur exemple,
Seigneur, nous viendrons désormais
Au milieu de votre temple,
Chanter avec eux vos bienfaits.
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger is a popular carol throughout the English speaking world. While it”s hard to get an exact ordering of which carols are sung most we have some indication from a 1996 Gallop Poll in Britain which revealed it as the joint second most popular Christmas carol, sharing the spot with O Come All Ye Faithful.

While the precise author of the carol Away in a Manger is unknown, there has been speculation that it could have been written by Martin Luther. This is probably just a myth however, with more evidence pointing towards the carol being authored in the late nineteenth century in the United States. We do know that it”s first appearance was in a book entitled The Little Children”s Book for Schools and Families which appeared in Philadelphia in 1885. This contained much of the modern carol, but excluded the third verse which first appears in a Charles H. Gabriel collection from 1892. This was part of the reason that the Library of Congress”s carol researcher and head of reference section Richard S. Hill concluded that it was probably a Lutheran children”s poem created for the 1883 celebration of Martin Luther”s 400th birthday.

While the lyrics in use today don”t see much variation, the music that accompanies the song isn’t set in stone. Indeed in hymn books there have been over forty different musical pieces put alongside the lyrics. There isn’t one that”s most popular everywhere either, and both the USA and UK have different musical pieces that the music most commonly. In the USA it”s Mueller, a piece written by James R. Murray in 1887. While the UK largely uses Cradle Song by William J. Kirkpatrick who was the musical director of Philadelphia”s Grace Church and a serial hymn and carol compiler – his total publications of this type amounts of eighty-seven!

Away in a Manger has influenced the idea of the Birth of Jesus substantially, although much of what is in the carol isn’t mentioned in the Bible. For instance there”s no references to cattle being present at Jesus’s birth and no mention of Jesus not crying. The idea that Jesus was unable to cry suggests super-human characteristics that Gnosticism or Apollinarianism ascribed to Christ. Some haves suggested that it”s exclusion from English Hymnal and Hymns Ancients and Modern was due to these inaccuracies. Never the less a controversy stirred in 1991 when British newspaper the Observer reported that some schools had altered the lyrics to remove Christian references, although research into this has found little factual accuracy in the report and the full lyrics are still being song across the world.


Away in a manger, No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus, Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky,Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing,The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, Look down from the sky
And stay by my side, “Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children, In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven, To live with Thee there

High Word of God, Eternal Light

Middle age hymn from around the tenth century. Translated into English by John Mason Neale.

Performed antiphonally by a choir.

John Mason Neale Lyrics

High Word of God, eternal Light
Begotten of the Father”s might,
Who cam”st a Child, the world to aid,
As years their downward course displayed: Amen.

Our hearts enlighten from above,
And kindle with thine own true love;
That, dead to earthly things, we may
Be filled with heavenly things today.

So, when the judge’s sentence dire
Condemns the lost to endless fire,
And sweetest accents call the blest
To enter on their heavenly rest

O may we not for wilful sin
The due rewards of evin win;
But grant us, Lord thy face to see,
And heaven enjoy enternally.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one,
Praise, honour, might and glory be,
Both now and in enternity. Amen.

Latin Lyrics

Verbum supernum, prodiens
A Partre olim exiens
Qui natus orbi subvenis
Cursu diclivi temporis: Amen

Illumina nunc pectora
Tuoque amore concrema;
Audito et preconia
Sint pulsa tandem lubrica.

Iudexque cum pos aderis
Rimari facta pectoris
Reddens vicem pro abditis
Iustisque regnum pro bonis,

Non demum arcemur malis
Pro qualitate criminis;
Sed cum beatis compotes
Simus perennes celibes.

Laus, honor, virtus, gloria
Dei Patri et Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
In sempiterna secula. Amen.

Come, thou Redeemer of the Earth

Middle age hymn from St Ambrose (c.340-97). St Ambrose was believed in the middle ages to have invented the hymn, but while this has been shown to be false he did write many, including this one. Translated into English by John Mason Neale.

Performed antiphonally by a choir. Sung only at first Nativity vespers on Christmas Eve.

John Mason Neale Lyrics

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest thy virgin birth
Let every age adoring fall:
Such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But by the Spirit, Thou art still,
The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant, in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
His course he runs to death and hell,
God’s throne to dwell.

O equal to the Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light
Where endless faith shall shine serence
And twilight never intervene

All glory to the Father be;
Glory, enternal Son, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

Latin lyrics

Veni, Redemptor gencium,
Ostende partum virginis.
Miretur omne seculum:
Talis decest partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine
Sed mistico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum caro,
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit virginis,
Claustra pudoris permanent;
Vexilla virtutum micant;
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedens de thalamo suo,
Pudoris aula regia,
Gemine gigas substancie
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus eius a Patre,
Regressus eius ad Patrem;
Excursus usque ad inferos,
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Equalis eterno Patri
Carnis tropheo accingere,
Ingirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpetim.

Presepe iam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum
Quod nulla nox interpollet,
Fideque iugi laceat.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Eiusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
Et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.

Boar’s Head Carol

The Boar”s Head carol is associated with a story set in the Fiftheenth century. Capcot, a scholar at Queen”s College, Oxford, was walking across Shotover Common towards Horspath village to attend Mass when he was attacked by a wild boar. Capcot grabbed the boar by the scruff of it”s neck and shoved a copy of Aristotle he had been reading into its throat. After removing its head, he stuck this on his staff and left it in the Church porch while attending mass. Afterwards the head was taken back to Queen”s college for dinner. The story is still celebrated in Oxford, with the Parish Church in Horspath having a window commemorating the event, and Queen”s College having an annual dinner in which three chefs carry a Boar”s head, decorated as in the carol by a garland of bay leaves and rosemary, on a silver plate into the hall. A solo singer sings the first verse, leading the procession with torch bearers. The procession briefly stops for each verse, but moves during the chorus. The head is then placed on the high table, where the Provost distributes the herbs to the choir and gives the orange from the Boar”s mouth to the solo singer.

The Boar”s Head carol was the first carol to be published in English, the first print dating to 1521. This was in Jan van Wynken de Worde”s Christmase Carolles Newly Emprynted at London in the flete strete. Jan van Wynken was an apprentice of William Caxton who had brought printing to England seven years prior. It is likely that other version of the Boar”s head carol printing in the fiftheenth century predate this one – Husk argues the oldest version is the versions which begins “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! The Boar his headi s armed gay”.

While the modern versions of the carol have no obvious textual link to Christmas, the original third verse did hence the link of the song to Christmas. Furthermore Christmas feasts in England during the Middle Ages often included Boar”s Heads, due in part to the open season for hunting Boar running from Christmas until Candlemas. It is thus likely that the Queen”s College story was to embellish a tradition that was popular at the time. The tradition may have origninated from the Norse custom of boar sacrifice to the godess of fertility, Freyja, at the feast of midwinter. Despite the wild boar becoming extinct in England during the seventeeth-century the tradition continued.

The boar”s head in hand bear I,
Bedecked with bays and rosemary;
And I pray you my masters be merry,
Quot estis in convivio

Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino
Laudes Domino, Laudes Domino, Laudes Domino

The boar”s head, as I understand,
Is the bravest dish in all the land
When thus bedecked with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.

Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss,
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels from the Realms of Glory is a carol written by James Montgomery. The carol is usually sung to the tune of the French carol Les anges dans nos campagnes (which due to this usage has become known as Iris, the name of Montgomery”s newspaper)due to the similarities in their opening stanzas. In the USA however the tune of Regent Square by Henry Smart is used, which is also used in England for the carol Light”s abode, celestial Salem. It first appeared in the Sheffield Iris on 24th December 1816, a newspaper edited by the author. It was marked out from other carols at the time by its religious character – others were predominantly focused on eating!

Born to an Ayrshire clergyman in 1771, James Montgomery initially failed school, was taken on as an apprentice baker, before escaping to become an apprentice publisher to Mr Gales who published the Sheffield Register, a radical newspaper. Montgomery took over the Register after Mr Gales, fearing the consequencs of his eulogies of the French Revolution, left for France in 1794.

Under Montgomery the paper, which changed name to the Sheffield Iris, became less radical, although Montgomery was still imprisoned twice for libel – the first time for publishing a song of the storming of the Bastille, and a second for the coverage of a local riot. After 31 years as edior, the Paper was taken over by a rival in 1825.

After retiring in 1825, Montgomery dedicated his life to producing religious verse. In total he produced over four-hundred hymns and was involved in the adaptation of many more.


Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o”er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation”s story,
Now proclaim Messiah”s birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o”er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Carol of the Bells

Christmas is a time of bells: from the traditional bells of churches, to the bells of sleighs, to children singing Jingle Bells to jovial Santa”s in town center streets ringing bells. Bells have become a symbol of Christmas itself, and this song reflects their ever-presence. No surprise then that bells feature in many of the cultural manifestations of Christmas – from Hollywood films such as The Bells of St. Mary to Christmas songs such as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. As well as being the omnipresent symbols of Christmas, bells further mark joyous occasions: they are rung out at weddings, christenings, and even on the dawning of peace at the ends of wars.

Their celebratory message is therefore key to their use by Christians at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is not a new phenomenon, but a tradition of Christian churches since the Dark Ages to ring out their bells on Christmas Day. Despite this, the Bible does not document bells ringing at the birth of Christ: none of the Gospels of John, Luke, Mark or Matthew mention their use and neither dp Paul”s letters. Indeed the only reference to bells in the entire Bible is in Zechariah. However there is an early Christian story involving all the world”s bells simultaneously and in unison ringing at the birth of Christ and causing the world”s population to acknowledge the new king. Historical evidence points strongly against this story however, not least due to the relative absence of bells during that period. Still the story has had historical significance, arguably being a method of encouraging church attendance and involvement in Christmas celebrations in the early Church. While the story is no long as popular, it survived longer in Eastern Europe where up to the first half of the twentieth century it was popularly recited.

It is thus unsurprising that the Christmas Carol to encapsulate this story best came from this region. Mykola Dmytrovich Leontovych (1877-1921), a 39 year old composer popular throughout Ukraine and the larger Russian Empire, penned the music to the carol now known as “Carols of the Bells” in 1916. The music, named “Shchedryk”, he created however was originally a non-seasonal hymn, one which celebrated beauty in God”s creation. However circumstances of its first performance, by Kiev University Students in December 1916, caused the first association of the music with the Christmas season. The music itself has both light melodies with three and four-part harmonies. While seemingly complicated, the music is surprisingly easy to learn making the song an instant hit.

It took another two decades for the music to mature into the modern-day carol, thanks to Peter J. Wilhousky (1902-1978). While Wilhousky, born in Passaic, New Jersey in the United States, had never visited Ukraine, or indeed Eastern Europe, he understood the region well given his cultural background. His parents were Czech immigrants to America who taught their children Slavic songs and dances. Indeed as a teenager Wilhousky became a part of the well known and respected New York Russian Cathedral Boys Choir and even sang at the White House in front of President Woodrow Wilson. Later Wilhousky would receive an undergraduate degree from the Juiliard School of Music, after which he produced several Carnegie Hall concerts before becoming the arranger for NBC radio”s symphony orchestra. It was during this time, despite heavy demands on his time, he came across the music to “Shchedryk” which he viewed as fitting the traditional Christian story of carols in unison at Christ”s birth. Thus in 1936 the Carol known today as “Carol of the Bells” was born.

It was his job as arranger for NBC radio”s symphony orchestra, and his ability to play the piece on air in an era when radio, despite the depression, was becoming increasingly popular, which led to the speedy rise to popularity of “Carol of the Bells.” Choirs, including Wilhousky”s own All City High School Chorus, began performing the carol across the United States. Over the next two decades the carol would be recorded thousands of times, performed millions of times and even translated into a variety of languages. Today the Carol is a key aspect of the American caroling tradition. Its popularity was perhaps helped by its use in champagne television advertisements.

Wilhousky is not the only composer to put words to Leontovych”s carol, even if his version is the most successful. M. L . Holman”s 1947 Ring, Christmas Bells, and two anonymous songs, one eponymous written around 1972 (which begins with the line “Hark to the bells, Hark to the bells”), and one entitled “Come, Dance and Sing” written in 1957.


Hark how the bells,
sweet silver bells,
all seem to say,
throw cares away

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold,

Ding dong ding dong
that is their song
with joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
from everywhere
filling the air

Oh how they pound,
raising the sound,
o”er hill and dale,
telling their tale,

Gaily they ring
while people sing
songs of good cheer,
Christmas is here,

Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send,
on without end,
their joyful tone
to every home
Dong Ding dong ding… dong! Bong!

A Great and Mighty Wonder

A mid-nineteenth century translation of a seventh century Greek carol put to the music of a sixteenth-century German tune at the beginning of the twentieth century, this carol is representative of the technique of borrowing from pre-existing carols which many of todays most popular Christmas songs arise from.

The text of A Great and Mighty Wonder comes from serial carol author John Mason Neale (1818-1866) who is perhaps best known from Good King Wenceslas. Neale had become influenced by the Oxford Movement within the Church of England while at Trinity College, Cambridge and was later ordained as a priest in 1841, becoming the Vicar of Crawley in 1842 where he was appalled that a churchwarden would stand on the altar to open the east window. His Oxford Movement orientation would bring him into conflict with members of his congregation and his diocesan bishop and by 1846 he was forced to leave he position to become the warden of Sackville College almshouses close to East Grinstead, where he remained for the last two decades of his life. His salary of £27 a year was comparatively low, but more damaging to Neale was that for the majority of this period he was denied the right to administer the sacrament at Holy Communion due to his introduction of a rood screen and vested altar which was seen as Catholic influenced by others in the church. While this may have frustrated Neale, it led him to have time to spend on his hobby of translations of early Church hymns for which he is now renowned.

Neale aimed to bring the rich traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church into the practice of the Church of England and saw the translation of carols as a means to do so. His Hymns of the Eastern Church, published in 1862, features this carol as a translation of a poem by St Germanus who lives from 634 to 734 (although Neale incorrectly attributed it to St Anatolius) and was sung in Greece on Christmas Day.

The hymn that Neale translated consisted of two stanzas, which were reversed in order in the English translation which consists of six verses – the first stanza beginning with the verse translated as “While thus they sing your monarch”. The third verse of the translation is in fact the ending of the original hymn.

For the 1906 book The English Hymnal the translation by Neale had to be modified slightly to fit to the German folk carol “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” which would provide the backing music. In this Neale”s third verse would become the carol”s refrain, but would lose its first line in the process. The 1906 version was modified again, omitting the last verse, in the 1950 Hymns Ancient and Modern but was restored in 1962″s Baptist Hymn Book as well as the Church Hymnary.

Percy Dearmer”s 1931 Songs of Praise also featured the carol with a revised first and second verse, closer in content to the German hymn from which the music came, as well as changing the word ransom to succour later in the carol.

In a more modern version, the 1986 Carols for Today changes the first verse again and the last line of the refrain to the less gendered “And peace on earth. Amen”


A great and mighty wonder
Our Christmas festal brings:
On earth a lowly infant,
Behold the King of kings!

The Word is made incarnate,
Descending from on high;
And cherubim sing anthems
To shepherds from the sky.

And we with them, triumphant,
Repeat the hymn again:
“To God on high be glory,
And peace on earth to men!”

While thus they sing your Monarch,
Those bright angelic bands,
Rejoice, ye vales and mountains!
Ye oceans, clap your hands!

Since all He comes to ransom,
By all be He adored;
The Infant born in Bethlehem,
The Savior and the Lord!

And idol forms shall perish,
And error shall decay,
And Christ shall wield His scepter,
Our Lord and God for aye.

Alternative 1st and 2nd verses by Percy Dearmer, 1931

A great and mighty wonder,
A full blessed cure!
The Rose has come to blossom
Which shall for ay endure

Word has dwelt among us
The true light from on high!
“To God on high be glory,
And peace on earth to men!”

Alternative 1st verse from 1986 Carols for Today

A great and mighty wonder,
Redemption drawing near!
The Virgin bears the infact,
The Price of peace is here.

O Come All Ye Faithful

One of the most popular Christmas hymns in the English language, O Come All Ye Faithful, has it roots in another emensely popular Christmas carol, Adeste Fideles, to the tune of which it provides English lyrics. Often featured as the final hymn in Christmas servies on Christmas Eve. The popularity of the carol worldwide is such that it also goes by the name “The International Carol” and the history of the carol lives up to its global reach today.

The origins of Adeste Fideles were disputed up until 1947 when it was finally established that both the music and the latin words of four verses were composed by John Francis Wade (1711 – 1786), an Englishman who had previously been resident in Lancashire who was living in a Roman Catholic college in Douai, Northern France. One of the main reasons for a dispute over authorship was that Wade was a music copyist who would reproduce sheet music before this could be done by printing press.

Prior to being finally attributed to Wade other candidates for the potential authorship had included the Italian Saint Bonaventura, English organist John Redding as well as various others of among others German and Portuguese nationality. The Portuguese attribution is perhaps the most understandable due to their role in popularising the song. Some still maintain to this day that the music comes from a Portuguese source.

Wade”s music sounds very similar to Charles Simon Favart”s Le Comte d”Acajou, and it”s not clear if Wade was borrowing from this or parodying it, or even if Favart”s borrowed from Wade. Perhaps both had inspiration for another composer, both Handel and Thomas Arne (who Wade knew) have been suggested. The timing of the music shifts between duple and triple time.

The first appearance of the Adeste Fideles in London is probably from its 1782 publishing, although it had appeared 22 years earlier in France without the accompanying music. The Portuguese connection comes in when it was played at their London embassy in 1795. Translations into English began in 1789 with a version which begins “Come, faithful all, rejoice and sing”.

The translation of Adeste Fideles into what is now known as O Come All Ye Faithful was the product of a London Anglican, Frederick Oakeley (1802-1880). His first attempt at a translation began “Ye Faithful, approach ye”. This was first song at Margaret Chapel, Marylebone, London in 1841 although it wasn”t until he converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1845 after becoming unpopular in the Anglican church for his style of preaching, that a version of his lyrics we now know which were first published in 1852 in Murray”s hymnal.

Often Oakesley”s three verses are used in addition to verses by William Brooke (1848-1917) including one more by himself, most commonly making up a seven verse song. Brooke was another convert, but this time from Baptism to the Church of England. He translated Adeste Fideles from the original Latin to English. Verses by Oakesley make up the first, second, sixth and seventh verses of this expanded version. William Brooke”s expanded addition appeared in the Altar Hymnal of 1884. Despite the addition of verses by Brooke the English carol, even in it”s full seven verses, is one less than Adeste Fideles.

Oakeley”s 1852 translation is by far the most popular version of the carol today, but there”s over fifty competing translations available (there were 38 by 1892 when John Julian published the Dictionary of Hymnology).

Wade”s music for Adeste Fideles was widely used for various psalms and songs in both Catholic and Protestant congregations in English from it”s first published appearance in the country in the 1782 An Essay on Church Plain Chant. For instance it”s used in the Psalm 104 and for the hymn Begone, Unbelief by John Newton. The music was called the Portuguese hymn despite the fact the author is now known to be Wade. This was perhaps due to the Duke of Leeds hearing it played at a Portuguese Chapel in 1795 popularising the name Portuguese Hymn by commissioning Thomas Greatorex to produce a version for his Concerts of Antient Music. Still some believe that the hymn is originally Portuguese, with it”s composer being Marcos Portugal (1762-1830).

Alternative First Lines used in other versions:

  • Approach, all ye faithful
  • Assemble, ye faithful
  • Come, faithful all, rejoice and sing
  • Draw nigh, all ye faithful
  • Hither, ye faithful, haste with songs of triumph
  • Ye faithful, approach ye


O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God”s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

A Song Was Heard At Christmas

While many think of Christmas Carols as pieces of music composed long before living memory, there also remains an active tradition of carol making for a contemporary audience. This carol fits into this modern tradition and was written by Timothy Dudley-Smith, a very prominent British hymn writer who has written at least 250 carols and hymns in his lifetime.

About the Author

Timothy Dudley-Smith is perhaps most known for his version of Manificat which goes “Tell out, my soul the greatness of the Lord”. He is still alive and composing carols to this day. He was born in Manchester, in the North of England, on December 26th 1926. He moved to Derbyshire as a child with his family as his father became a schoolmaster there. He was schooled at Tonbridge in Kent before attending Pembroke College, part of the University of Cambridge. It was at university he found his talent for writing – especially comic verse. After his degree he stayed in Cambridge to study theology at Ridley Hall before his ordination into the Church of England in the year 1950.

His ecclesiastical career began with a job as a curate in London”s suburbs, followed by a return to Cambridge to run their Mission then back to London to run the Boys” Club in Bermondsey and be editor of the Crusade magazine. This was followed by fourteen years at Hart&#8217s argument is similar to a player remaining on 15 against a ten after which mentioning the dealer switched up a 6 along with a king. the Church Pastoral Aid Society before he became the Archdeacon of Norwich and in 1981 to 1992 the Suffragan Bishop of Thetford. He has since retired and lives in Salisbury.

It seems surprising which such a busy career Dudley-Smith had any time to write hymns and carols. He managed to do this by producing them while on his annual holidays in Cornwall with his family.

The Carol

The imagery in the carol is of four key Christmas themes – Jesus as a child, the star, the tree and singing – but uses these Nativity based themes to make a wider Christian theological point. See for instance the link between the Christmas Tree and the Cross of Calvary in verse three.

The song has several musical accompaniment choices. Timothy Dudley-Smith prefers Alford by J. B. Dykes, but other pieces that have been used include Cherry Tree Carol and Holy Apostles.

The carol came to life in August 1978 during a weekend holiday in Cornwall. Originally entitled A Star There Was At Christmas changed substantially over the weekend during both writing and consideration of the hymn while walking. The song was first seem in a Christmas Card sent by Dudley-Smith”s family doctor,  J. P. English, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, in December 1978. It would later appear in Dudley-Smith”s first published poetry anthology Lift Every Heart.

There is some variation of the carol, with the third line of verse two sometimes being changed to read “That all might know the way to go” as well as the fourth line of the fourth verse being changed to “The Song of God made man”. The author himself suggests these are allowed changes to his hymn in Lift Every Heart.