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Angels We Have Heard on High

"Angels We Have Heard on High" is a Christmas carol.

The words of the song are based on a traditional French carol known as Les Anges dans nos Campagnes (literally, The Angels in our Countryside). Its most common English version was translated in 1862 by James Chadwick.

It is most commonly sung to the hymn tune "Gloria", as arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes. Its most memorable feature is its chorus:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo! (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest")

where the sung vowel sound "o" of "Gloria" is fluidly sustained through a lengthy rising and falling melismatic melodic sequence:

Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo" is itself the name of an older famous hymn.

The phrase also appears melismatically in the Latin version of the carol "O Come All Ye Faithful", though somewhat less extended:

Glo-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o.

In England, the words of James Montgomery's "Angels from the Realms of Glory" are sung to this tune, except with the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" refrain.

In the English version of "O Come All Ye Faithful", that phrase is poetically translated as Glo-ry to Go-od, Glo-ry in the High-est, reducing the melisma to no more than two notes per word.

Lyrics

English

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

CHORUS:

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

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