Sunday, January 17, 2010

Singing "Angels We Have Heard On High"

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 song?

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

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

This song fits well with Christmas Eve programs, because the Christmas story told in the Gospel of Luke is read aloud, and that story features the incident when the angels sang to the shepherds.

The first verse depicts a rich image. The point of view is a person who had been traveling along the floor of a valley that has a mountain range on each side. As the person traveled, he occasionally heard angels singing from the mountain range on one side, and this singing echoed from the other mountain range.

The second verse expresses the person's wondering about why the angels were singing.

The third and fourth verses are a different point of view, another person answering and explaining to the traveler. This other person already has been in Bethlehem and is traveling away from Bethlehem, and on his way he has met the first person, who heard the angels on his own journey.

Apparently the first person has heard the angels singing but does not know about the birth in Bethlehem. The second person knows about the birth in Bethlehem, but still has not heard the angels, but he will hear them soon because he is traveling into the valley. Thus, information about these marvelous events is being shared and spread.

The Gloria in Excelsis refrain is fun, fun, fun to sing.

Here is a rather standard performance of the song by the University of Wisconsin's Superior Acappella Choir.

Here is an interesting performance by Liberty High School. The tempo seemed too fast to me at first, but I liked it more and more as I listened to it. Parts of this performance evoke another Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy.

Here is a performance by the Ohlone Chamber Singers. Here too the tempo seemed too fast to me at first, but I liked it more and more as I listened to it.

One attractive feature of this song is the mention of angels. Here is a video that shows a lot of sappy pictures of angels.

Here is a heavy-metal performance by someone who calls himself Pastor Brad. It is illustrated by a roller-coaster ride, which evokes the image of the valley and mountains.

Here is a rock-and-roll performance by what seems to be a Christian youth group in Singapore.

This is a performance by a Christian youth group in what appears to be the Philippines. I liked this performance because of its unusual emphasis on the percussion over the melody.

This seems to be a Japanese version illustrated by scenes from non-Christian fantasy stories. I think the singing is very pretty.

Finally, here is a jazz instrumental performance. The musicians are Marshall McDonald, Steven Sharp Nelson, Kevin Dee Davis, Alex Rowley and Camille Nelson.

My brother Steve likes this performance by Andrea Bocelli:

And Steve recommended this performance by the College Of the Sequoias Concert Choir:

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