If ye would hear the angels sing


The earliest version of If ye would hear the angels sing in the Cambridge University Library dates from 1965 (classmark MS.Tranchell.2.343), composed for SATB & organ. A 1974 version was arranged for ATT/BrBB choir & organ (classmark MS.Tranchell.1.55). A note at the end of the later version reads "This version [in C major] is revised from the original for TBrBB in F and the version for SATB in D flat", but the "original" does not seem to be present in the CUL. The SATB version was arranged for Peter Marchbank and Queen Mary’s School, Basingstoke, a boys’ Grammar School with a well-established musical tradition. When he took up the post of Director of Music, charged with putting on a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in the Parish Church to which the Mayor and the Town Council, as well as the Governors, parents and whole school would be present, he asked PAT to provide a carol that would be relatively straightforward and eminently singable... the result was the SATB arrangement in D flat. The work lay otherwise unknown until 2003 when Geoffrey Webber and family went to stay with Peter (M), leading to Caius Chapel Choir performing it that year, then its submission by Geoffrey for publication. 

The D-flat SATB version was published by Oxford University Press for the Church Music Society, c2008. Church Music Society publications; 042.

Score available to purchase from Oxford University Press. ISBN: 0193950189


The work has been recorded at least four times, featuring on the following CDs:

Nine Lessons & Carols, King's College Choir, Stephen Cleobury (Conductor), 2012, (recording of the service from December 2010) available through Hyperion http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_KGS0001 (the web page includes sound clips of all tracks including If ye would hear.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Choir of King's College Cambridge, 2009, (recording of the service from December 2008) available on Amazon (and others).

Dormi Jesu: A Caius Christmas, 2014, Delphian http://www.cai.cam.ac.uk/recordings/dormi-jesu-a-caius-christmas

Oxford Christmas Choral Highlights 2010, Oxford University Press Music, published December 12, 2018, available here https://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Christmas-Choral-Highlights-2010/dp/B07L6M8FZP

Some of these recordings can be found on YouTube and other music streaming services. Here is one from King's  - we do not know if this is legally published on YouTube.

And another much slower version from the Oxford City Choir


The words are by Dora Greenwell (1821-1882):

If ye would hear the angels sing
‘Peace on earth and mercy mild’,
Think of him who was once a child,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

If ye would hear the angels sing,
Rise, and spread your Christmas fare;
‘Tis merrier still the more that share,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Rise and bake your Christmas bread:
Christians, rise! the world is bare,
And blank, and dark with want and care,
Yet Christmas comes in the morning.

If ye would hear the angels sing,
Christians! See ye let each door
Stand wider than it e’er stood before,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

Rise, and open wide the door;
Christians, rise! The world is wide,
And many there be that stand outside,
Yet Christmas comes in the morning.