Benton First UMC Blog

Grace Note for December 13, 2015

What does the invention of the printing press have to do with a Christmas carol?

Charles Wesley was a great songwriter and poet. He and his brother, John, were also the leaders of a new movement in the Church of England known as Methodism.

One of Wesley’s then lesser-known works, was a poem titled, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

The poem might have been lost to obscurity had it not been for English musician William Cummings. Cummings was a fan of composer Felix Mendelssohn. One day Cummings wondered what it would sound like to bring together the lyrics of Wesley with the music of Mendelssohn. The event that inspired Cummings was Mendelssohn’s “Festival Song Cantata,” written in celebration of the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg.

The end result is a song that masterfully brings to life the words of the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Malachi.

Thanks to the words of Charles Wesley, the music of Felix Mendelssohn, and the genius of William Cummings, this great Christmas carol endures as a joyous story of our Emmanuel and His blessed birth.

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