The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices

Alternate Titles: "The Wondrous Story," "The Song of the Angels in Bethlehem," and "The Golden Harp"

For Christmas

Version 1

Compare: Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices-Pettman
Hark! What Mean Those Thrilling Voices
Hark! What Mean Those Voices

Words: John Cawood (1775-1852)

According to John Julian, these lyrics first appeared in Thomas Cotterill's Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, 1819, No. 269. It does not occur in the 8th edition, 1829, or the 1836 Supplement.

Music: "Stuttgart"
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"St. Oswald," John B. Dykes,
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"Angel Choir," John H. Gower, 1895
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"Wilmot," Carl M. von Weber
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And Others Below
Meter: 87, 87

Source: James Montgomery, The Christian Psalmist. Third Edition. (Glasgow: William Collins, 1826), No 278, p. 244-245.

1. Hark! what mean those holy voices,
Sweetly sounding through the skies?1a
Lo! the angelic host rejoices
Heavenly hallelujahs rise.1b

2. Listen to the wondrous story,
Which they chant in hymns of joy;2
"Glory in the highest, glory;
Glory be to God most high!

3. "Peace on earth, good will from heaven,
Reaching far as man is found;
Souls redeemed, and sins forgiven;
Loud our golden3 harps shall sound.

4. "Christ is born, the great Anointed;
Heaven and earth His praises sing:
O receive whom God appointed,
For your Prophet, Priest and King.

5. "Hasten, mortals4 to adore Him;
Learn His Name and taste His joy;5
Till in heaven you sing before Him,
Glory be to God most high!"

6. Let us learn the wondrous story
Of our great Redeemer's birth;
Spread the brightness of His glory
Till it cover all the earth.

Notes

1. Ithamar Conkey (1815-1867) led the choir at the Central Baptist Church, Norwalk. Return

1a. Or: 'from' or 'in' the skies? Return

1b. Or: 'Loudest Alleluias' rise. Return

2. Or:

Cherubs tell the wondrous story,
Joyous Seraphim, reply; Return

3. Or: 'grateful.' Return

4. Or: 'children.' Return

5. Or: Learn His Name 'to magnify.' Return

Sheet Music by George B. Arnold from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol #36
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Hark_What_Mean_36.gif (129491 bytes)

Sheet Music by C. W. Pearce from Charles L. Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol #570
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Hark_What_Mean_570a.gif (256589 bytes) Hark_What_Mean_570b.gif (267327 bytes)

Sheet Music from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1894), Carol #41
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Carol-041a.gif (274260 bytes) Carol-041b.gif (337446 bytes)

In this version, the first verse also acts as the chorus.

Sheet Music from St. Basil's Hymnal, 12th Edition. New York, Benziger Brothers, ND.
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In this version, the second verse is used as the chorus to all other verses. Verse 6 is omitted.

Sheet Music by W. Eade (Redruth or Illogan) from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 113, under the title "Holy Voices."
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Sheet Music from John Clark Hollister, ed., The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), #5, p. 19.

Sheet Music by Adam Geibel from Christmas Carols, 1884
Adam Geibel and Pemberton Pierce
Published by Pemberton Pierce, Pennsgrove, N. J.
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Source: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets.
(American Memory, Performing Arts-Music)

Sheet music "Herald" from A. B. Goodrich, ed., A New Service And Tune Book For Sunday Schools (New York: Gen. Prot. Episc. S. S. Union and Church Book Society, 1863, New Edition, Enlarged, 1866), #4, p. 26.

Sheet Music Composed By H. P. Danks
New York: Pond, Wm. A. & Co., 1881.

Source: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets.
(American Memory, Performing Arts-Music)

Sheet Music from Edgar Pettman, ed., Modern Christmas Carols (London: Weekes & Co., 1892), #14:

14-Hark_What_Mean_Those_Holy_Voices.jpg (82719 bytes)

Note from Pettman: No. XIV.—May be sung as a recessional hymn, very solid, i.e. legato and full. The theoretical organist is requested kindly to fill up and expand the chords as much as possible.

Also occurs in The Book of Christmas Hymns (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1868), pp. 13-14; omits the sixth verse.

Also found in G. Walters, A Good Christmas Box (Dudley: G. Walters, 1847, Reprinted by Michael Raven, 2007), pp. 56-57.

Note: Sir Arthur Sullivan also wrote a musical setting for this hymn in 1883. For more information, plus a MIDI file and a printable score, see A Sullivan Christmas. (links open in a new window at an exterior site).

Cawood, John, M.A., born at Matlock, Derbyshire, March 18, 1775. His parents being in humble circumstances, he received in childhood but a limited education, and at 18 was engaged in the service of the Rev. Mr. Cursham, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts. Three years' study, however, under careful direction, enabled him to enter St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, in 1797. Obtaining his degree in 1801, he took Holy Orders, and became successively Curate of Ribsford and Dowles, and Incumbent of St. Ann's Chapel of Ease, Bewdley, Worcestershire. He died Nov. 7,1852. His hymns, 17 in all, were never published by himself. Of these 9 were included in [Thomas] Cotterill's Selection of Psalms and Hymns for Public and Private Use, 8th ed., 1819, Nos. 268-276. Most of these have passed into other collections. These are :—

1. Almighty God, Thy word is cast. After a Sermon.

2. Hark What Mean Those Holy Voices (1819.) Christmas.

3. Begin A Joyful Song. (1819.) Christmas.

4. Behold yon wondrous star. (1819.) Epiphany.

5. Trembling with tenderest alarms. (1816.) Finding of Moses.

6. In Israel's fane, by silent night. (1816.) Samuel.

7. King o'er all worlds the Saviour shone. (1819.) Good Friday,

8. Christians, the glorious hope ye know. (1819.) Plea for Missions.

9. Hark! what mean those lamentations. (1819.) Missions.

In addition, Dr. Rogers published in his Lyra Brit, 1867, from the author's mss. :—

10. A child of sin and wrath I'm born. (1820.) Infant's Prayer.

11. The Son of God, in worlds on high. (1822.) Christ's Humility.

12. Blessed Father, Great Creator. (1837.) Holy Trinity.

These details are from the same manuscript, amongst which there are 5 hymns yet unpublished. [J.J.]

Source: John Julian, The Dictionary of Hymnology (1892, 1907).

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