Facts About "Angels We Have Heard On High"
"Angels We Have Heard on High" is a Christmas carol written by James Chadwick (1813-1882), an Anglo-Irish Roman Catholic priest and second Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. The melody of the song came from “Gloria,” a traditional French tune originally for "Les Anges dans nos campagnes" song. The hymn tune was composed and arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes (1887-1958), an American organist.
James Chadwick was ordained as a priest in December 17, 1836. He was appointed as the Vice-President at Ushaw College, where he studied and taught Humanities and Philosophy. His health broke down after a few months and Chadwick returned as a Philosophy professor. He became a chaplain to Lord Stourton from 1859 to 1863 but again returned to being a Theology professor. He was elected as bishop of the diocese in 1866 and ruled the diocese for 16 years. He became the eighth president of Ushaw in 1877. He was most well-known as the author of "Angels We Have Heard on High."
The lyrics were based on the scripture of Luke 2:8-15, which reads “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The text was about the birth of Jesus Christ, highlighting the scene when the Shepherds heard several angels singing and praising the newborn Jesus. The most iconic part of the song was its refrain, "Gloria in excelsis Deo" which means “Glory to God in the Highest.” It was the first part of the chorus angels have sung during the birth of Jesus Christ. The tune contains 16 notes of a rising and falling melismatic sequence of the melody. "Angels We Have Heard on High" was first published in 1843. Chadwick's lyrics were considered as a derivative of the original song in French as they have a similar subject. However, Chadwick’s work was protected under copyright law because the text wasn't directly a translation of the original piece. The most prevalent version was his version.