Angels We Have Heard on High

Full Text

1 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!

2 Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
which inspire your heavenly song?
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

3 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!

Source: Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #113

Text Information

First Line: Angels we have heard on high
Title: Angels We Have Heard on High
French Title: Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes
Source: Traditional French carol
Place of Origin: France
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Opening Hymns


Scripture References:
all st. = Luke 2:8-15

"Les anges" is a French noel (from the Languedoc region) believed to date from the eighteenth century. Its text and tune were first published in the Nouveau Recueil de Cantiques in 1855. The English translation originated as a free imitation from the French by James Chadwick, which was adapted by Henri Hemy in his Roman Catholic collection, Crown of Jesus Music (1862). Of the original eight-stanza French text, stanzas 1, 2, and 4 are included.

The Christmas gospel in Luke 2:8-15 is the basis for the text. The hymn's refrain, "Gloria in excelsis Deo" is the first part of the angels' chorus in Luke 2: 14; it is one of the few Latin phrases in common use in Protestant churches.

Liturgical Use:
Christmas season; in "carols from many lands" choral services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987


Angels we have heard on high. [Christmas. ] This appears to be a Christmas Carol. It is found in the Crown of Jesus, 1862, No. 138. Other forms are:—
1. The angels we have heard on high. In the Holy Family Hymns, 1860, No. 9, marked as by the Rev. J. Chadwick.
2. Bright angels we have heard on high, In the Parochial Hymn Book, 1880, No. 38.
3. Bright angel hosts are heard on high. In R. R. Chope's Carols, 1875, No, 30, marked as "Cornish, alt. by R. R. C."
We are unable to say which is the original form of the text. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)


GLORIA (French)

GLORIA is the French noel tune traditionally associated with this text. The popularity of this carol stems from its refrain–all those cascading phrases in which human beings imitate the angels' chorus. Try using the refrain by itself as a short choral introit during the Christmas season, perhaps w…

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