The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

On Christmas Night, All Christians Sing

For Christmas

Also known as
On Christmas Night All Christians Sing
On Christmas Night True Christians Sing
The Sussex Carol

See: On Christmas Night - Notes

Words: On Christmas Night All Christians Sing, Attributed to Bishop Luke Waddinge (1628- ca. 1691), Bishop of Ferns, Ireland
A Smale Garland of Pious and Godly Songs (Ghent, 1684)
Four verses of six lines.

Music: English Traditional

These Words and Music Noted from Mrs. Verrall by Dr. R. Vaughan Williams

Source: Manuscript notes of Dr. Williams, May 24, 1904, Horsham, Sussex, England

See: On Christmas Night - Notes

1. ||: On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring :||
News of great joy, news of great mirth
News of our merciful king's birth.

2. When sin departs before thy grace,
Then life and health comes in its place.
Angels and men with joy may sing
All for to see the new-born King.

3. Angels and men sing in the air,
(for) Christ mans ruin may repair
Prisoners in their chains rejoice
For to hear the music of their voice,

4. All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the angels sing this night
"Glory to God and peace to men,
Both now and for ever more. Amen!"

Sheet Music noted by R. Vaughan Williams from Mrs. Verrall
Journal of the Folk-Song Society
, Vol. 2, p. 127.

 

Manuscript Notes by Dr. R. Vaughan Williams

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Notes:

The manuscript notes were from the Ralph Vaughan Williams Manuscript Collection at the British Library (RVW2/2/102)

Image URLs:

These lyrics were first referred to in an article in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 2, pp. 126-127. The lyrics that Dr. Williams collected from Mrs. Verrall weren't published. Rather, it was said that the lyrics that she provided were virtually identical to those collected by Lucy Broadwood from Mr. Grantham (Carter), Holmwood, Surrey, Feb , 1892.

Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 2, pp. 126 & 127.

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It is interesting that only three of these four verses were used in his arrangements in "Fantasia on Christmas Carols" (1912) and the arrangement of the Sussex Carol in Eight Traditional Folk Carols (1919). Verse 3 above is omitted from both of these works. They are otherwise identical.

R. Vaughan Williams, Eight Traditional English Carols (London: Stainer & Bell, Ltd., 1919), Carol #2, "On Christmas Night" (Sussex), pp. 8-10.

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in RVM's second "Unaccompanied Singing" SATB arrangement, note the interesting interplay of the four parts. For example, here are the first verse lyrics by part:

Sopranos:
On Christmas night all Christians sing,
On Christmas night all Christians sing,
To hear the news the angels bring;
News of great joy news of great mirth
News of our merciful King's birth.

Altos:
On Christmas night all Christians sing,
To hear the news the angels bring
News of great mirth
News of our merciful King's birth.

Tenors:
On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring,
To hear the news the angels bring;
News of great mirth,
News of our merciful King's birth.

Bass:
On Christmas night all Christians sing,
To hear the news the angels bring
News of great mirth,
News of our merciful King's birth.

Note that the first word of the third verse is "From" in second, SATB arrangement, but "All" in the first arrangement.

The tune from Mrs. Verrall has been widely played since it was first published in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Volume 2, p. 127. In that article, there were two other tunes also published. One was for a verse that began "On Christmas night the Joy-bells Ring" noted by James Cooksey Culwick (1845-1907), Mus. Doc. The other were lyrics and a tune noted by Lucy Broadwood from Mr. Grantham (Carter), Holmwood, Surrey, Feb , 1892. See: On Christmas Night - Broadwood

In addition to the tune collected by Dr. Williams from Mrs. Verrall on May 24, 1904, Dr. Williams also collected a tune from Mr. Verrall:

The tune collected by Dr. Williams from Mr. Verrall on May 24, 1904.

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A copy of the tune can be found in the Ralph Vaughan Williams Manuscript Collection (at Vaughan Williams Memorial Library) (RVW1/2/110): Mr Verrall's Tune (http://www.vwml.org/record/RVW1/2/110). The image name is VAU-14-071.jpg.

The lyrics in the first setting by Dr. Williams is also found in Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), #28, p. 49. Like Dr. Williams, Rev. Terry gives verses 1, 2, and 4. He cites his source for the lyrics as "A Good Christmas Box," 1842 (somewhat different than the 1847 edition; see:  .

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