The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Ding Dong Merrily on High

For Christmas

Words: George Ratcliffe Woodward, 1848-1934

Tune: Brane de l'Official, from Thoinot Arbeau's Orchesographie, (1588), harmonized by Charles Wood
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

1. Ding Dong! merrily on high
In heav'n the bells are ringing
Ding, dong! verily the sky
Is riv'n1 with angel singing
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis

2. E'en so here below, below
Let steeple bells be swungen
And i-o, i-o, i-o
By priest and people be sungen
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis

3. Pray ye dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers
May ye beautifully rime2
Your evetime song, ye singers
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis.


1. Or: rent Return

2. Or: rhyme Return

Sheet Music from Charles Wood and George Ratcliffe Woodward, The Cambridge Carol-Book, Being Fifty-Two Songs For Christmas, Easter, And Other Seasons (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1924), #8.

Sheet Music to "Branle de L'Official" from Orchesographie by Thoinot Arbeau (1589), pp. 92-93.

Branle_De_L'Official-92.jpg (148005 bytes) Branle_De_L'Official-93.jpg (157551 bytes)

See A Garritan Community Christmas for an MP3:
Ding Dong Jazzily On High, Jon Raybould

Editor's Note:

The tune, "Branle de L'Official" was found in the 1588 work "Orchesographie," a 16th-century study of French dance forms, by Thoinot Arbeau (the anagrammatic pen name of French cleric Jehan Tabourot (March 17, 1519 - July 23, 1595). It provided information on social ballroom behaviour and on the interaction of musicians and dancers, and contained numerous woodcuts of dancers and musicians. It also included detailed instructions for the various dances. It is considered perhaps the most valuable book on 16th century dance. The Branle de L'Official was considered primarily a dance for the common people, although it did become somewhat popular among the nobility.

A reprint of the 1588 volume, and an 1888 reprint, are available at Google Books. An English translation by Mary Stewart Evans (1948) is available from Dover Publications (ISBN 0486217450). Sheet music is available from the International Music Score Library Project  and from the Choral Public Domain Library. A facsimile of the work is available at the Library of Congress. The tune is virtually unchanged.

Lyrics for this dance tune were written by George Ratcliffe Woodward. As such, this is one of the clearest examples of the carol as dance, although not the English carol form of burden and stanza.

Elizabeth Poston based her version on these lyrics.

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