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Updated 12/27/2019


Angels We Have Heard on High

"Angels We Have Heard on High" is generally sung to the hymn tune "Gloria", a traditional French carol as arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes. Barnes (September 14, 1887 February 14, 1958) was an American organist. He worked as organist at the Church of the Incarnation, New York (19111912), Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York (19131924), St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia (19241938), and the First Presbyterian Church, Santa Monica (19381958). He also composed two organ symphonies, other smaller organ works, arranged works for the organ and wrote books about religious music.

The lyrics of "Angels We Have Heard on High" are inspired by, but not an exact translation of, the traditional French carol known as Les Anges dans nos campagnes (literally "the angels in our countryside"), whose first known publication was in 1843. "Angels We Have Heard On High" is the most-common English version, written in 1862 by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, northeast England. Chadwick's lyrics are original in some sections, including the title, and loosely translated from the French in other sections. The carol quickly became popular in the West Country, where it was described as "Cornish" by R.R. Chope, and featured in Pickard-Cambridge's Collection of Dorset Carols. It has since been translated into other languages, and is widely sung and published.

"Gloria in excelsis Deo", Latin for "Glory to God in the Highest", is the first line of the song of the angels in the Gospel of Luke.


Lyrics by James Chadwick

  Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing 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 strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be?
Which inspire your heavenly songs?
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 newborn King.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Saviour's birth.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!