> Maddy Prior > Songs > Hark! Hark What News

Hark! Hark What News the Angels Bring / Good News

[ Roud 389 , 3210 ; Stephenson, c. 1775 / anon. 1847]

Hark! Hark What News the Angels Bring is a carol from the South Yorkshire village carols tradition. Carollers at the Cheshire Cheese sang Hark, What News the Angels Bring in 1957 in a live Christmas Day broadcast on BBC Radio. This was published in 2000 on the Alan Lomax Collection CD Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year.

Carollers at the Black Bull, Ecclesfield sang Hark, Hark What News in a 1959 field recording that was included in 2006 on the Free Reed 4 CD anthology Midwinter. The included book commented:

Written in the late 17th century, this carol fell largely out of use, except among the singers or rural Cornwall and South Yorkshire, from whose traditions this recording is taken. The tune was written by William Sandys in 1833.

According to a Lancashire legend, both the words and music of this were composed impromptu by Händel when, on a visit to the city, he found himself without means to pay for bed and breakfast. He offered this new composition instead. The story is most definitely untrue.

Another version of Hark! Hark! What News from the Black Bull recorded on December 6, 1973 is on the Leader LP A People's Carol: A Christmas singing tradition recorded in South Yorkshire pubs. The album's booklet commented:

This is the most popular carol throughout the whole region and goes under several titles including Good News, Swaine Hark and Oughtibridge. The words crop up all over the country and variants were published by Sandys and Gilbert. The tune is attributed to a local man, John Hall of Sheffield Park, who “worked at the anvil, composed oratories, and died in the poorhouse” (Lightwood, 1905, p. 275). It was probably first performed as part of his “Selections of Sacred Music on the Nativity”, 26/12/1792, at the Hospital Chapel. Unfortunately the attendance was poor owing to the state of the streets caused by a sudden thaw. The pattern of verses, with one accompanied and the next unaccompanied, is normal for the Black Bull, and the interesting tail-tag is peculiar to Ecclesfield and one or two other villages. It is, in fact, a carol in its own right being third and fourth lines to another tune set to the same words and known confusingly as Hark, hark.

Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band sang Hark! Hark What News in 2001 on their CD Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

Kate Rusby sang the first three verses of Hark! Hark What News in 2008 on her Christmas CD Sweet Bells, and a chorus of Jon Boden, Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Gavin Davenport, Fay Hield and Sam Sweeney sang these three verses at the Royal Hotel in Dungworth as the December 2, 2010 entry of Jon's project A Folk Song a Day.

Andy Turner learned Hark Hark What News from A People's Carol and he sang it with Magpie Lane on December 8, 2012 at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Dunstan, Woking. This recording was used as part the of December 10, 2012 entry of Andy Turner's project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

The New Oxford Book of Carols, 1992 Jon Boden et al sing Hark! Hark What News

Hark! Hark what news the angels bring:
Glad tidings of a new-born King.
Born of a maid, a virgin pure,
Born without sin, from guilt secure.

Hark Hark! Hark hark! what news the angels bring:
Glad tidings of a new-born King.
Born of a maid, a virgin pure,
Born without sin, from guilt secure. (× 3)

Hail mighty Prince, eternal King!
Let heaven and earth rejoice and sing!
Angels and men with one accord
Break forth in songs: “O praise the Lord!”

Hail mighty Prince, eternal King!
Let heaven and earth rejoice and sing!
Angels and men with one accord
Break forth in song to praise the Lord! (× 3)

Behold! he comes, and leaves the skies:
Awake, ye slumbering mortals, rise!
Awake to joy, and hail the morn,
The Saviour of this world was born!

Behold! Behold! he comes, and leaves the skies:
Awake, ye slumbering mortals, rise!
Awake to joy, and hail the morn,
A saviour of this world was born! (× 3)

Echo shall waft the strains around
Till listening angels hear the sound,
And all the heavenly host above
Shall join to sing redeeming love.

Links

See also the much longer version of Hark, Hark! What News including sheet music at The Hymns and Carols of Christmas.