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Hark The Herald Angels Sing (C Wesley) and It’s Christmas Time (J Durham)- Judith Durham 2014

On August 6th, 2022 Judith Durham passed away at the age of 79, she had battled a chronic lung disease for most of her life, but emerged as the country’s greatest female vocalist. As lead singer of the Seekers, she dominated global music charts throughout 1964-68; sweet-natured, spiritual, and a humanitarian, she was a legend and a national treasure. Her stunning voice was well-suited to gospel, blues, jazz, and of course Christmas carols, her two albums of Christmas-themed music, For Christmas With Love (1969), and  It’s Christmas Time (2013), contained moving renditions of such seasonal favourites as Silent Night, Mary’s Boy Child, Joy to The World, The Christmas Song and others, and this year we are featuring Judith’s interpretation of  Charles Wesley’s  Hark The Herald Angels Sing, and an original composition by Judith entitled It’s Christmas Time, both performed by Judith at a Carols By Candlelight concert in Melbourne in 2014.Below L-R John Wesley/Charles Wesley, Artwork, George Whitfield.

The Methodist Church was founded in the 18th century by John Wesley, an Anglican pastor who had tried to reform the Church of England from within, but ultimately established a breakaway evangelical movement that became known as Methodism. Wesley’s Christian beliefs were founded on principles of piety, charity, and modesty, and he was aided by his younger brother Charles, who was a prolific writer of hymns and songs, who penned the lyrics “Hark! how all the elkin rings, glory to the King of Kings” in 1737. Charles completed the song soon after, the word “welkin” meant literally “the vault of heaven makes a long noise”, and when the song was debuted in a church service it was entitled Hark! How all the Welkin Rings”. Below- Judith Durham.

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George Whitfield was a contemporary of the Wesley brothers and similarly imbued with a reformist zeal, his interpretation of the scriptures was more liberal than Charles Wesley, so when he published this song, he changed the title to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, without Wesley’s permission, who was enraged. Wesley knew that angels had not sung about the birth of Christ, but the more user-friendly title stuck. Yet this song’s re-invention had only just begun, in 1855 William Cummings, a musician and songwriter, decided to combine a Mendelssohn cantata in tribute to Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the first printing press, with Whitefield’s rewrite of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, to produce something very different, and much more dramatic, that became the version of the song we know today.

Judith was accompanied by a children’s choir and full orchestra on this evening, and she imbued both songs with a sincerity and spirituality, so characteristic of this great performer, her sister Beverley Sheehan spoke for us all on the occasion of Judith’s passing this year, “Judith’s joy for life, her constant optimism, creativity and generosity of spirit were always an inspiration to me”.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from 4TR to all our readers,
thank you for your fantastic support during the year, and particularly in these
difficult pandemic times, your interest and comments have been truly inspiring.
4TR looks forward to re-commencing posts to this site on Tuesday January 24
2023, till then enjoy the summer and time spent with your nearest and dearest.

Graeme Davy 4TR


    1. Hi Priti, your feedback is appreciated, 4TR posted several items about Seekers songs on 29/1/2020- 30/1/2020, as well as a post about the New Seekers, who also featured several Austtalian singers – Marty Kristian and Peter Doyle -I Hope you enjoy these too, best regards Graeme 4TR.


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