Angels We Have Heard on High

Representative Text

1 Angels we have heard on high,
singing sweetly through the night,
and the mountains in reply
echoing their brave delight.

Gloria in excelsis Deo,
gloria in excelsis Deo.

2 Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see?
What glad tidings did you hear? [Refrain]

3 Come to Bethlehem and see
him whose birth the angels sing.
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King. [Refrain]

4 See him in a manger laid
whom the angels praise above.
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
while we raise our hearts in love. [Refrain]

French verses:
1 Les anges dans nos campagnes
ont entonné l'hymne des cieux,
et l'écho de nos montagnes
redit ce chant mélodieux. [Refrain]

2 Bergers, pour qui cette fête?
Quel est l'objet de tous ces chants?
Quel vainqueur, quelle conquête
mérite ces cris triomphants? [Refrain]

3 Cherchons tous l'heureux village
qui l'a vu naître sous ses toits;
offrons lui le tendre hommage
et de nos cœurs et de nos voix! [Refrain]

Source: Voices Together #249

Text Information

First Line: Angels we have heard on high
Title: Angels We Have Heard on High
French Title: Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes
Meter: with refrain
Source: Traditional French carol, 18th cent.
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Opening Hymns


Scripture References:
all st. = Luke 2:8-15

"Les anges" is a French noel (from the Languedoc region) believed to date from the eighteenth century. Its text and tune were first published in the Nouveau Recueil de Cantiques in 1855. The English translation originated as a free imitation from the French by James Chadwick, which was adapted by Henri Hemy in his Roman Catholic collection, Crown of Jesus Music (1862). Of the original eight-stanza French text, stanzas 1, 2, and 4 are included.

The Christmas gospel in Luke 2:8-15 is the basis for the text. The hymn's refrain, "Gloria in excelsis Deo" is the first part of the angels' chorus in Luke 2: 14; it is one of the few Latin phrases in common use in Protestant churches.

Liturgical Use:
Christmas season; in "carols from many lands" choral services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987


Angels we have heard on high. [Christmas. ] This appears to be a Christmas Carol. It is found in the Crown of Jesus, 1862, No. 138. Other forms are:—
1. The angels we have heard on high. In the Holy Family Hymns, 1860, No. 9, marked as by the Rev. J. Chadwick.
2. Bright angels we have heard on high, In the Parochial Hymn Book, 1880, No. 38.
3. Bright angel hosts are heard on high. In R. R. Chope's Carols, 1875, No, 30, marked as "Cornish, alt. by R. R. C."
We are unable to say which is the original form of the text. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)


GLORIA (French)

GLORIA is the French noel tune traditionally associated with this text. The popularity of this carol stems from its refrain–all those cascading phrases in which human beings imitate the angels' chorus. Try using the refrain by itself as a short choral introit during the Christmas season, perhaps w…

Go to tune page >



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Exclude 127 pre-1979 instances
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