Songs of Advent – Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling


MARY REICHARD, HOST: This weekend Christians observe the second Sunday of Advent. Once again we’ll close today’s program with a few different takes on a hymn of reflection that’s almost as old as the Church.

WORLD Correspondent Bonnie Pritchett is our guide.

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER. An ancient Latin poem dating back to the 5th or 6th century calls all “children of the day” to listen. Like this Sunday’s lectionary readings, the hymn, “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding,” declares Christ is near and urges the listener to prepare for his arrival.

In this 2012 recording, the Chichester Cathedral Choir sings “Hark! A Herald Voice is Calling.”

MUSIC: [HARK! A HERALD VOICE IS CALLING, CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL CHOIR]

There are many English variations of the text. Most are translated from a 1632 latin version. John Dryden is credited with the first English translation—published in 1706 after his death. But the most popular version of the hymn text and melody is from the mid-19th century. 

Englishman Edward Caswall’s translation, alternately called “Hark! A Herald Voice Is Calling” or “Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding” was put to music in 1850 by fellow Englishman William Henry Monk.

Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago included this arrangement by Paul van der Bijl and Jason Reed, on its 2011 Advent album: Proclaim the Bridegroom Near.

MUSIC: [HARK! A THRILLING VOICE IS SOUNDING, COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH] 

In Isaiah chapter 40 the prophet tells of a voice crying out to prepare the way of the LORD. The first eight verses of Mark’s Gospel tell the reader that prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist who preached of the one who could come–one  mightier than him. And in Second Peter, Chapter 3, the apostle declares Christ will return. 

A guild of church worship leaders calling themselves Folk Hymnal used Caswall’s translation on their 20-18 project called “Incarnation Songs.” The recording includes a more modern version of “Hark! A thrilling Voice is Sounding.” 

Stewart Fenters and Tim Briggs composed an additional chorus that reminds the listener of the promise fulfilled long ago and the hope of promises yet to come.

MUSIC: [HARK! A THRILLING VOICE IS SOUNDING, FOLK HYMNAL]

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett


EICHER: If you’re enjoying Bonnie’s Advent selections, good news! We’ve created a Spotify Playlist this year so you can find the music for your own enjoyment. We’ve included the link to that in today’s transcript at worldandeverything.org.


(Photo/iStock)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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