Go, Tell It on the Mountain

Full Text

Go, tell it on the mountain,
over the hills and everywhere;
go, tell it on the mountain
that Jesus Christ is born.

1 While shepherds kept their watching
o’er silent flocks by night,
behold, throughout the heavens
there shone a holy light. [Refrain]

2 The shepherds feared and trembled
when lo! above the earth
rang out the angel chorus
that hailed our Savior‘s birth. [Refrain]

3 Down in a lowly manger
the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation
that blessed Christmas morn. [Refrain]

Source: Hymns of Promise: a large print songbook #160

Adapter: John W. Work

John Wesley Work II (sometimes Jr.) was born, educated, worked and died in Nashville. He majored in history and Latin at Fisk University (B.A. 1895, M.S. 1898), after which he was instructor of Greek and Latin until 1906 when he was appointed chair of the department. Work and his brother, Frederick Jerome (1879-1942), were leading figures in the preservation, performance and study of African-American spirituals. They published several collections of slave songs and spirituals, including New Jubilee Songs as Sung by Fisk Jubilee Singers (1901) and Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907). John Work II’s treatise The Folk Song of the American Negro (1915) was one of the earliest studies of African-American music undertaken by a descend… Go to person page >


Scripture References:
all st. = Luke 2:8-20
ref. = Matt. 28:19

The text of this beloved spiritual was first published in Folk Song of the American Negro (1907), a study of African American folk music by John Wesley Work, Jr. (PHH 476). The song may date back to earlier sources, but evidently the original text was lost. According to Edith McFall Work, widow of John Wesley Work, III:

the verses of these songs were published by John Work, II, in place of the original ones which could not be found. In 1940 John Work, III, had the songs copyrighted and published [at 215] in his book American Negro Songs.”
-Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, p. 360

In American Negro Songs and Spiritual (1940), John Wesley Work, III, attributes the newer text to his uncle Frederick J. Work. "He may have composed it" [the tune], wrote J. W. Work, III. "I know he composed the verses." John, III, recalled that when he was a child, the students at Fisk University began singing this before daybreak on Christmas morning, going from building to building. Later, his arrangement for use in choral concerts by the Fisk Jubilee Singers helped to popularize the spiritual.

The refrain theme comes from Old Testament passages in which praise to God for his acts of deliverance was often shouted, both literally and metaphorically, from the mountaintops (Isa. 42:11). While the three stanzas tell the essence of the Christmas story, the refrain underscores the missionary impetus of the Christian church: "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). The "go, tell," which initially applied to the singers caroling on the university campus, is a signal for us to leave the comfortable confines of Christian worship and "go, tell" the message of Christ's redemption to the whole world.

Because of the spiritual's oral tradition, variants in text and melody exist. A textual variant for "Go, Tell It" is an Easter version with the following refrain text:

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, tell it on the mountain
That Jesus lives again.

Liturgical Use:
Christmas morning; a Christmas candlelight service; "carols from many lands" service; the refrain could be used by itself as a chorus on Christmas Day, or it could be combined with the Easter refrain version (see above) and used during worship services that focus on missions.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Note: The book American Negro Songs and Spirituals: A Comprehensive Collection of 230 Folk Songs, Religious and Secular, with a forward by John W. Work (1940), states that "These verses were supplied by John Work Sr. in place of the original ones which could not be found." (p. 215).



You have access to this FlexScore.
General Settings
Stanza Selection
Voice Selection
Text size:
Music size:
Transpose (Half Steps):
Contacting server...
Contacting server...

Questions? Check out the FAQ
This is a preview of your FlexScore.
The Cyber Hymnal #1993
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #356
  • Full Score (PDF, XML)
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
Worship and Rejoice #218


Instances (1 - 56 of 56)Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
A New Hymnal for Colleges and Schools #223
African American Heritage Hymnal #202
Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #44
Anglican Hymns Old and New (Rev. and Enl.) #233
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #95TextAudio
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #182Text
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #143Text
Chalice Hymnal #167Text
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #57Page Scan
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New #243Text
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #290TextAudioPage Scan
Gather (3rd ed.) #428Page Scan
Gather Comprehensive #359Page Scan
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #363
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #136Text InfoTextAudio
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #99Text
Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and ecumenical hymn book #135
Hymns for a Pilgrim People: a congregational hymnal #110Text
Hymns of Faith #127TextPage Scan
Hymns of Promise: a large print songbook #160TextPage Scan
Hymns of the Saints: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints #249
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #253
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #21Text
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #93TextFlexscoreAudio
Lutheran Service Book #388TextPage Scan
Lutheran Worship #504TextPage Scan
Oramos Cantando = We Pray In Song #372
Praise y Adoración: a bilingual hymnal : un himnario bilingüe #216a
Praise! Our Songs and Hymns #176
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #29Text
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #356Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreAudio
Rejoice Hymns #205
Rejoice in the Lord #224Page Scan
Rock of Ages A Worship and Songbook for Retirement Living #51
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #121
Sing Joyfully #216TextPage Scan
Singing Our Faith: a hymnal for young Catholics #114Page Scan
Small Church Music #57Audio
Songs for Life #131Text
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #258TextPage Scan
The Christian Life Hymnal #132
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #188
The Cyber Hymnal #1993TextScoreAudio
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #138Text
The New Century Hymnal #154Text
The New National Baptist Hymnal #66
The United Methodist Hymnal #251TextAudio
The Worshiping Church #151TextFlexscorePage Scan
This Far By Faith: an African American resource for worship #52TextPage Scan
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #224TextFlexscorePage Scan
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #43Text
Worship (3rd ed.) #397
Worship (4th ed.) #428
Worship and Rejoice #218TextScoreFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #79
Worship Supplement 2000 #706TextPage Scan
Include 21 pre-1979 instances
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us