An Anthem for Christmas (William Billings)

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  • (Posted 2015-02-18)   CPDL #34601:     
Editor: Lee Lovallo (submitted 2015-02-18).   Score information: Letter, 19 pages, 295 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Transposed down a minor 3rd. All dynamic markings are editorial; suggested tempos are based on Hans Nathan's analysis of Billings' Italian tempo indications and meter signatures. Skeletal keyboard reduction is editorial.

General Information

Title: An Anthem for Christmas
Composer: William Billings

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Genre: SacredAnthem

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

Published: 1794 in The Continental Harmony

Description: Original key C major but with note from Billings "N.B. Set this piece one note lower. Words from Luke 2d and elsewhere." Text adapted (presumably by Billings) from Luke chapter 2 and Isaac Watts, 1709, Hymn 4 of Book 1.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

Billings' Lyrics
Hark! Hark! Hear you not,
Hear you not a cheerful noise
Which make the heavens ring with joy.
See where light stars angels fly
A thousand heavenly echoes cry:
Behold, I bring you glad tidings
Unto you and to all people,
For unto you this day is born
a Savior which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you,
You shall find the babe meanly wrapped
In swaddling bands and lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angels
A multitude of the heavenly host,
And they were praising God and saying:
Glory to God, Glory to God in the highest.
O how can men forbear to sing
When earth with angels' notes do ring?
Then join all your voices,
One chorus to raise,
Ascribing all honor, all glory and praise.
What greater love, what greater gift,
Can God on man bestow,
'Tis half the angel's heaven above,
And all our heaven below.
Then join all your voices,
One chorus to raise,
Ascribing all honor, all glory and praise.
Lord, and shall angels have their songs,
And men no tunes to raise?
O may we lose these useless tongues
When they forget to praise!
Glory to God, that reigns above,
That pitied us forlorn,
We join to sing our Maker's love,
For there's a Savior born.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hosanna in the highest.

 

Isaac Watts' Hymn 4
Shepherds, rejoice! lift up your eyes,
And send your fears away;
News from the regions of the skies,
Salvation's born to-day.

Jesus, the God whom angels fear,
Comes down to dwell with you;
Today he makes his entrance here,
But not as monarchs do.

No gold nor purple swaddling bands.
Nor royal shining things;
A manger for his Cradle stands,
And holds the King of kings.

Go, shepherds, where the infant lies,
And see his humble throne
With tears of joy in all your eyes,
Go, shepherds, kiss the Son.

Thus Gabriel sang, and straight around
The heav'nly armies throng;
They tune their harps to lofty sound,
And thus conclude the song:

Glory to God that reigns above!
Let peace surround the earth!
Mortals shall know their Maker's love,
At their Redeemer's birth.

Lord, and shall angels have their songs,
And men no tunes to raise?
O may we lose our useless tongues
When they forget to praise.

Glory to God that reigns above,
That pitied us forlorn;
We join to sing our Maker's love,
For there's a Savior born.