This carol is one of 61 on the playlist of “Carol Story,” a 10-minute play that tells the story of Christ solely through lyrics of Christmas songs as dialogue.Learn More.
As with Handel’s “Messiah,” discussed in the previous Carol Story essay on songs about the night Jesus was born, the development of “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” exemplifies the ever-evolving collaboration (some say interference) of artist, patron and theologian.
The original poem which begat the song, written in 1739 by Methodist pastor and song writer Charles Wesley, was entitled “Hymn for Christmas Day.” Wesley’s hymn was an epic with over 10 stanzas. It included words that showed Wesley’s intellect but left listeners scratching their heads. Wesley’s pastor friend, George Whitfield, pointed this out and suggested revisions, simplifying the text.
Half of the Wesley-Whitfield stanzas survived into the next century and made an impression on English composter William…
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