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HOW GREAT OUR JOY

The origin of the text for “HOW GREAT OUR JOY” is not known, but according to some investigations, it may date back to as early as 1500 AD in Germany.  In 1623, the tune was modernized and given an echo setting…where one group or individual repeats the lines of the other.  There is speculation that the song may have been designed for a Christmas play in which the Shepherds’ lines were followed by an off-stage echo.

 

Part of the song was first translated into English in the early 20th century by American born, Theodore Baker who studied music in Germany.  The tune is based on an arrangement around the same time by Hugo Jungst.  Although there are 9 stanzas to this carol, we normally only sing 2 to 4 of them in North America.  The verses tell the story Christmas including the story of the Shepherds that night and the message given to them by the angels.  It tells of their response not only that night as they rejoiced and spread the word.  What they saw and heard their lives forever.

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