Hark! The Herald Angels Sing for String Quartet – ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ was one of the most popular carols that¬†didn’t appear on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first disc¬†‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’. We put this to rights by including it on our second disc ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and other carols’ (you can hear a sample of us playing it by clicking on the link). It’s a rousing melody by Felix Mendelssohn¬†and was originally composed as a chorus for a secular cantata in celebration of the invention of the printing press! It is well worth listening to the original as it’s scoring is unusual (with the use of trombones, tubas, tenors and basses giving it a dark and heavy timbre). The middle section is rather earnest and was removed when adapted by William H. Cummings as he¬†most likely considered it inappropriate for a Christmas carol.
Mendelssohn would no doubt have been surprised to learn that the tune was to be married with words written as a sacred poem one hundred years earlier by Charles Wesley. He may have been even more surprised that his melody went on to become a staple of every Christmas celebration and one of the most famous carols ever written.
The quartet version was arranged by Vaughan Jones and taken from Mendelssohn’s original harmonisation. It is linked by passages of music written especially for this arrangement.
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: