This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday 9 December 2012

New Hymns 3

Well, Advent is with us, the commercial impersonators of St Nicholas are in the shops, and the streets have been ringing with Christmas carols for about three months now. So we felt it appropriate to invite Charles Wesley here, to participate in an Eccles master-class on how Hark! The Herald Angels Sing could be adapted for modern worship.

Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley: willing to learn from modern hymn-writers.

Eccles: Charles, nice to see you here, today. I was at the Tablet Christmas party last week, and the guests joined in with a version of your hymn that began:

Hark! The Tina Beattie sings:
"Blame the Pope for everything!"

CW: Thanks for inviting me here, Eccles. In fact, my original version began:

Hark! How all the welkin rings:
Glory to the King of Kings,
so I'm quite used to people altering the words.

E: Alas, welkins have been done to death in that famous song Whelk, whelk, whelk in the light, by Damian Lundy.

Whelk in the light

A whelk in the light.

CW: So, in our improved version, shall we stick with Mendelssohn's tune? After all, it's the one used throughout the whole world.

E: Except in Portsmouth, apparently, where some local chap has got the hymn banned in favour of his own repertoire. Sing me a few lines, so that we can see what it's all about.

CW: Hark! The herald angels sing:
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Angel cake

A herald angel, off duty.

E: Stop, stop, stop! I can see what you're doing wrong. You've got at least one new idea in each line, and none of them repeated. Why, Graham Kendrick would have started off with Hark, angels, hark and spun out the first line to a whole verse.

CW: It's good of you tell me this, Eccles. We can all learn from modern masters.

E: Let's give the Hark! motif more prominence. How about:

Hark, hark, hark! The angels sing.
Hark, hark, hark! The newborn King!
Hark, hark, hark! We're meek and mild.
Hark, hark, hark! We're reconciled.
Curate's egg

Hark, hark, hark! We're meek and mild.

CW: I see, what you're doing there. Cutting out most of the theology and making sure the song is really about us, not God.

E: There's still something wrong, though. "Reconciled" won't do. It's a long word, and might distress the congregation.

CW: How about Hark, hark, hark! We won't go wild for the fourth line?

E: Yes, that's much better. The only way the song could be improved now would be by changing "Hark" to "Ho". Nobody says "Hark" these days, especially not post-Vatican II angels.

CW: So we arrive at the final version, which is much more Christmassy!

Ho, ho, ho! The angels sing.
Ho, ho, ho! The newborn King!
Ho, ho, ho! We're meek and mild.
Ho, ho, ho! We won't go wild.
E: Perfect! Well, you can finish it off, Chazza.

Ho, ho, ho!

"Ho, ho, ho!" The true message of Christmas.

Earlier masterclasses: John Henry Newman    King David.


  1. Can you believe we had a Kevin Mayhew hymn foisted on us today at Mass? I'm still recovering.

    1. Dese are tales of creulty dat we hears far too often, sister Jaddis.

  2. managed to last out at Mass, very sick, then right at the end they tells us 'Lo the Mass is ended'. I'm very ill, could've finished me off!

    1. I told you to get well soon, sister Wupple. Why aint you doin dat?

    2. Mrs Wupple. Have you got a touch of Middletonitis?

  3. We sang 'Hark a Herald Voice is Calling' this Sunday, sung to the same tune as 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. You could see a few puzzled faces, we're not used to words like "solemn" or "sloth" or "Christ" in our hymns.

    We had a .gif image of two flickering candles on the overhead screen for most of the Mass just in case we forgot it was advent. I've been to other parishes where the Mass sponsor (they buy the tea and biscuits) gets an advert on the powerpoint.

  4. I feel ashamed, Tonia.
    Next time I have to sing a Kevin Mayhew hymn, I will offer it up for the intention that your church projector is attacked and rendered unusable by one of Anti Moly's possums.

  5. I am reliably informed that Mrs. Pepcid has banned the singing of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” at Tablet winter solstice parties. She believes that it is biased in favor of a rival Catholic periodical.

    Even changing it to ”Hark! The Tablet Angels Sing” will not appease her Pepcid-ness as it is well known that Tabletistas do not ‘hark’ – not to mention that ‘angels’ do not make appearances in the pages of the Tablet.

    As Michael remarked to Gabriel: “We wouldn’t be seen dead there!”

  6. Darling eccles, my co-author is wondering when you will get round to the song he used to sing in his yoof? 'We three kings of Hamilton Square/ selling knickers at tuppence a pair/ they're fantastic, no elastic to hold up your underwear.' P'raps mr. entmoot could write the tune? Xx Jess

    1. You is right, dat's anuvver of dem hynms wiv far too much thoelogy in dem, Jess.