Everyone knows this tune—it’s another Christmas standard—but I have to confess I didn’t know the title of the song, and the only words I really knew were those most obvious ones from the chorus, that whole “Gloria / In Excelsis Deo” bit.
The song reportedly evolved out of a Christmas custom in southern France, where shepherds tending their flocks on Christmas would call out across the hills “Gloria in excelsis Deo, Gloria in excelsis Deo!” in celebration of Jesus’ birth.
The words of the song are based on a traditional French carol known as Les Anges dans nos campagnes (literally, “Angels in our countryside”) composed by an unknown author in Languedoc, France. That song has received many adjustments or alignments including its most common English version that was translated in 1862 by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, north east England. The carol quickly became popular in the West Country, where it was described as ‘Cornish’ by R.R. Chope, and featured in Pickard-Cambridge’s Collection of Dorset Carols.
There is also a Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) translation of the carol which is known as Ainglean chuala sinn gu h-ard (literally, “Angels We Have Heard on High”). This was translated into Gaelic by Iain MacMilan from James Chadwick’s English translation. (via Wikipedia.)
It’s nice. I’ve got a kind of rocking version by The Brian Seltzer Orchestra that I appreciate for novelty value, and also a version from some Celtic Christmas album, but the version I’m listening to right now, which I genuinely like is by Robert Goulet. Go figure.
And here’s a few more versions:
Sufjan Stevens, “Angels We Have Heard On High” (excerpt) – from Hark! Songs For Christmas Volume 2
Starland Vocal Band, “Angels We Have Heard On High” – this from the group that brought you “Afternoon Delight“
- Angels We Have Heard On High – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- TLC Family “‘Angels We Have Heard On High'”
- A Winter’s Solstice V- Amazon.com
- The Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Ultimate Christmas Collection – Amazon.com
- Robert Shaw Chamber Singers, Songs of Angels – Christmas Hymns and Carols – Amazon.com
- 50 Most Loved Christmas Carols – Amazon.com
- Christmas With the Von Trapp Children – Amazon.com
- The Robert Shaw Chorale, The Many Moods of Christmas (1963 RCA Victor Version) – Amazon.com
- The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Collection [Mp3 320 kbps] TNT Villa (download torrent) – TPB
- BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA The Ultimate Christmas Collection crazy tracks blogspot com – Download from rapidshare.com
- The Many Moods of Christmas 1963 RCA Victor Version Robert Shaw Chorale and Orchestra – Download from megashares.com