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"Angels We Have Heard on High" is a Christmas carol of French origin in the public domain. The song commemorates the story of the birth of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of Luke, in which shepherds outside Bethlehem encounter a multitude of angels singing and praising the newborn child.


The words of the song are based on a traditional French carol known as Les Anges dans nos campagnes (literally, "The Angels in our countryside") composed by an unknown author in Languedoc, France. That song has received many adjustments or alignments including its most common English version that was translated in 1862 by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, northeast England. The carol quickly became popular in the West Country, where it was described as 'Cornish' by R.R. Chope, and featured in Pickard-Cambridge's Collection of Dorset Carols.[1]

There is also a Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) translation of the carol which is known as Ainglean chuala sinn gu h-ard (literally, "Angels We Have Heard on High"). This was translated into Gaelic by Iain MacMilan from James Chadwick's English translation. It has since been re-translated by world-renowned bassist Joseph Schlegel and his cohorts the Rowdy Bunch. It has been said that this translation spurred a Christian revivalist movement in the north metro area of Denver, Colorado.


"Angels We Have Heard on High" is most commonly sung to the hymn tune "Gloria", as arranged by Edward Shippen Barnes. Its most memorable feature is its chorus:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo! (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest")

Where the sung vowel sound "o" of "Gloria" is fluidly sustained through a lengthy rising and falling melismatic melodic sequence:

Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo" is the first line of the song of the angels in the Gospel according to Luke.

The phrase also appears melismatically in the Latin version of the carol "O Come All Ye Faithful", though somewhat less extended:

Glo-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o.

In England, the words of James Montgomery's "Angels from the Realms of Glory" are sung to this tune, except with the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" refrain. It is from this usage that the tune sometimes is known as Iris, the name of Montgomery's newspaper.[2]

In the English version of "O Come All Ye Faithful", that phrase is poetically translated as Glo-ry to Go-od, Glo-ry in the High-est, (or, "Glo-ry to Go-od, In-- the-- High-est"), reducing the melisma to no more than two notes per word.



Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strain


Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be?
Which inspire your heavenly songs?


Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.


See Him in a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
With us sing our Savior's birth.



Les anges dans nos campagnes
Ont entonné l'hymne des cieux,
Et l'écho de nos montagnes
Redit ce chant mélodieux

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Bis)

Bergers, pour qui cette fête ?
Quel est l'objet de tous ces chants ?
Quel vainqueur, quelle conquête
Mérite ces cris triomphants :

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Bis)

Ils annoncent la naissance
Du libérateur d'Israël
Et pleins de reconnaissance
Chantent en ce jour solennel

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Bis)

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

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Bis)

Bergers, quittez vos retraites,
Unissez-vous à leurs concerts,
Et que vos tendres musettes
Fassent retentir les airs

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Bis)

Scottish Gaelic[]

Ainglean chuala sinn gu h-ard,
Seinn cho milis feadh an àit',
Na beanntannan co - sheirm an ciùil,
'S Mac talla freagairt bòidheach ciùin.

Seisd (Chorus):

Seinn moladh agus glòir, Moladh agus glòir
Moladh agus glòir do Dhia, An Dàrna Pearsa naomh den Trian.
Seinn moladh agus glòir, Moladh agus glòir
Moladh agus glòir do Dhia, An Dàrna Pearsa naomh den Trian.
Chìobairean, carson ur duan?
Carson a tha e àlainn buan?
Innsibh dhuinn ur naidheachd-ghaoil
Dhùisg sibh suas gu ceòl cho naomh.

Seisd (Chorus)

Thig gu Bethlehem, thig is chì,
Chì thu'n Tighearna Dia do Righ;
Lùb do ghlùin 's thoir adhradh dhà,
Crìosda rugadh dhuinn na phàisd'.

Seisd (Chorus)



Hört der Engel helle Lieder
klingen das weite Feld entlang,
und die Berge hallen wider
von des Himmels Lobgesang


Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Hirten, sagt, was ist geschehen,
was tun uns die Engel kund?
Alles Leid könnt jetzt vergehen
auf dem weiten Erdenrund


Denn ein Kindlein ist geboren,
kommen ist der Heiland dein.
Er errettet, was verloren,
Friede soll auf Erden sein



Ángeles cantando están, tan dulcísima canción,
las montañas su eco dan, como fiel contestación.


Gloria a Dios en lo alto.
Gloria a Dios en lo alto.
Los pastores sin cesar sus cantares dan a Dios,
cuán glorioso es el cantar de su melodiosa voz.


Hoy anuncian con fervor que ha nacido el Salvador
los mortales gozarán paz y buena voluntad.


¡Oh! Venid pronto a Belén para contemplar con fe
a Jesús, autor del bien, al recién nacido Rey.


Mandarin Chinese[]

Tiānshǐ gēchàng zài gāo tiān, měimiào gēshēng biàn píngyuán,
Sìzhōu shānlǐng fā huíshēng, xiǎngyìng tiānshǐ huānlè yīn.


Róngyào, róngyào guīyú zhìgāo zhēnshén!
Róngyào, róngyào guīyú zhìgāo zhēnshén!
Mùrén yǒu hé dà xǐyuè, kuàilè gēshēng bù xiūxiē?
Yǒu hé xǐxùn gǎn xīnxián, qí fā gēshēng měi nán yán?


Other notable versions[]

  • 1984: The Carpenters on the album An Old-Fashioned Christmas
  • 2000: Christina Aguilera on the album My Kind of Christmas
  • 2005: MercyMe on the album The Christmas Sessions
  • 2006: Chris Tomlin on the album WOW Christmas: Green
  • 2007: Josh Groban on the album Noël
  • 2008: Brian McKnight on the album I'll Be Home For Christmas
  • 2008: Sixpence None the Richer on the album The Dawn of Grace
  • 2009: David Archuleta on the album Christmas from the Heart
  • 2009: Andrea Bocelli on the album My Christmas
  • 2009: REO Speedwagon on the album Not So Silent Night...Christmas with REO Speedwagon
  • 2010: Glee on the album Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
  • 2010: Linda Lampenius on the album Angels
  • 2010: Christian Bautista on the album A Wonderful Christmas
  • 2011: Bayside (Single)
  • 2012: Micheal Castaldo on the album Extravergine
  • 2012: Eleventyseven on the album Regifted
  • 2012: Pentatonix on the album PTXmas
  • 2013: Bad Religion on the album Christmas Songs
  • 2013: Paul Baloche on the album Christmas Worship
  • 2013: Jewel on the album Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection
  • 2013: The Piano Guys on the album A Family Christmas
  • 2014: Home Free on the album Full of Cheer
  • 2014: Kierra Sheard and Christine Michele on the album Motown Christmas
  • 2016: Sarah McLachlan on the album Wonderland

See also[]

  • "Ding Dong Merrily on High"


  1. Angels We Have Heard on High. Accessed 7 December 2009
  2. Angels from the Realms of Glory
  3. Tomás, Pedro Fernandes (1934). Canções portuguesas (do século XVIII à atualidade). Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra.

External links[]