Saturday, 1 December 2012

History In Sheffield: Pt 8

What better way to start the festive season than to incorporate some holiday history made in Sheffield?!

Scottish born James Montgomery moved to Sheffield in 1792 and quickly worked his way up to become editor of the Sheffield Iris newspaper. Always at the forefront of humanitarian efforts, he was imprisoned several times for speaking out against the political status quo. He also abhored slavery and worked to eliminate child chimney sweeps.
He is, however, mostly remembered for his poems and hymns. One of the latter in particular receives substantial play during the Christmas season. This is the hymn "Angels from the Realms of Glory". Written and published in Montgomery's own newspaper in 1816, the song was first sung in 1825 and only received its final tune in the early 1900s. Here's where it gets tricky:

In the United States, AFTROG is sung to the tune of "Regent Square". In the UK, AFTROG is sung to the tune of "Iris" which is the same tune used for "Angels We Have Heard On High". Furthermore, when sung in the UK, AFTROG also uses the same chorus as AWHHOH. Personally, I think "Angels From The Realms Of Glory" is a much more epic title.
Here are the first stanzas and chorus of each song:

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o'er all the earth
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth

Come and worship, come and worship
Worship Christ, the newborn King

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

Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo

Why not listen for yourself? I put together a quick video of the song as it is sung in the UK. This rendition comes to us from the famous King's College Choir in Cambridge. Please note the song is not mine and is only being used for educational purposes! The picture was taken by me. This statue of James Montgomery sits outside of Sheffield Cathedral having been moved there in 1971 from his grave site.

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