Made it... so far

I've been snarfling around the internet looking for appropriate Christmas carols and am feeling a little alienated by the Americanisation of lots of hymns. By that, I mean the breathy, tremble-voiced and somewhat creative attempts of people to sing with a face that suggests something somewhere between ecstasy and hard calculation of the price of a parquet floor. It's even worse when English people do it in the hope that they sound like they're from Ohio.

So, anyway, here's 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing', which has a lovely if dodgy bit of near-Arian theology in transition of the second verse ('veiled in flesh the Godhead see' and 'late in Time behold him come'). Oddly enough, three of the people most responsible for the first American Great Awakening of the early eighteenth century, which shook up the religious and social structures of the Western colonies, had a hand in this; George Whitefield, John Wesley and his brother Charles. By the way, the original lyrics of the hymn for Christmas Day talked charmingly of how the angels sang around the Welkin; why don't people use words like that much anymore?

The tune is Mendelssohn's, adapted via the Temple Church in the 1850s--a lovely part of the Victorian reign that--by William H. Cummings, though the Anglo-Irish version sets the words to Handel's music instead. The late Anglican faith's great adaptability probably shines through the graft.

Happy Advent, and mind the roads.


Edward Spalton said…
Thank you for this. I totally agree about the Americanisation!

An uncle, who became a Church of England vicar, after retiring from the old Indian army as Lt.Colonel, told me that "Hark the Herald Angels" makes an excellent quick march.

His regiment was returning to the cantonments (at Peshawar, I think), after a very gruelling expedition in the same part of the world where the Pakistani army is busy now and "filthy dirty" as he said. Then the band of the Sherwood Foresters came swinging down the road to this tune, leading the battalion on their Christmas church parade. It cheered him up no end!

Further on mangling of hymns. There is a sort of heresy hunt for "thees" and "thous" amongst modern churchpersons, leading to some ghastly consequences. The worst to date is from
"Eternal Father, strong to save2 where
"O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea"
is rendered
"O hear us when we cry to you
For those who sail the ocean blue".
Martin Meenagh said…
Oh good grief. Really? Has anyone told the US Navy that their hymn has been mangled?

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