FAVOURITE HYMNS


“Hark! The  Herald Angels Sing”

If you were asked to name your favourite carol, which one would you choose?

And what criteria would you employ to make that choice?

Would you choose one that reminds you of Christmases past, with many associations from your early years, one which has religious significance for you or one whose tune you particularly enjoy?

Well! Let's take a moment to look at one which I think is fairly unique.  It is Charles Wesley's “Hark! The  Herald Angels Sing”. This is the best known of at least three Christmas carols written by this great hymn writer. He wrote the words in 1739 and it was sung to a slow and sombre tune, in keeping with the custom at the time.  Fortunately for us, 100 years later an English musician called William H Cummings adapted a piece by Mendelssohn to fit the lyrics. This was music from a cantata called Festgesang, which commemorated Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. And this is the rousing tune which we sing today.

For many years this carol has been used as a recessional hymn for the service of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College Cambridge. I wonder if Charles Wesley or Mendelssohn would have approved of the arrangement by Sir David Willcocks used on these occasions. It is truly magnificent, providing a soprano descant and last verse harmonisation - both of which add sparkle and grandeur to a splendid expression of Christian hope.

But why do I say that this carol is unique? Well – what do you expect from a Christmas carol? Allusions to shepherds, mangers, stars, weary expectant mothers on donkeys? These are absent from this hymn – well, almost.  Instead we have the full Gospel story, the reason for Christ's birth, laid out before us. This carol is so rich in Scriptural allusions and teachings. It begins with the joyful proclamation of Christ's birth, then praises him for the salvation He was born to provide. The whole wonderful story is there in a nutshell. We should sing this with real joy in our hearts.

Have a happy Christmas and enjoy singing the carols.

Lorna Light

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb 
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing 
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn king!"



"Dear Lord and Father of Mankind"


When asked to choose and reflect on my favourite hymn, I thought it might be a difficult task.  However when I took the time to think about it there was really only ever one hymn that stood out for me:  "Dear Lord and Father of mankind".  To me, it's a wonderfully inspiring traditional hymn where we ask for God's forgiveness and then seek to follow him in the Christian values of reverence and praise.   I particularly like repeating the last line of the verses, where the emphasis is on love, peace and calm, and although there is the call to 'rise up and follow thee', for me there is a deep sense of serenity about the words and the tune.  In the last verse I take comfort that, despite an earthquake, wind and fire, God's voice is heard in the still, small voice of calm... something to remember on dark days. 

It has special meaning for me too, in another way.  We sang this hymn at my dear Dad's funeral in 2012 - he loved traditional hymns and this was one of his favourites.  I know he would have approved of it, and the words were a comfort to me on that day.  So whenever we sing this hymn in church I always enjoy the tune, reflect on the words, and think of my lovely Dad.

                                                                                             Jill Whitehall





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