It came upon the midnight clear

Posted on 16th December 2019 by simonbeattie

As with many of our favourite Christmas carols, ‘It came upon the midnight clear’ first appears (with its tune) in a Victorian publication: Arthur Sullivan‘s Church Hymns with Tunes (London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1874):

‘This fine Christmas hymn is a meditation on man’s wilful deafness to the message of the angels, and, not surprisingly, was written by a Unitarian minister’, the American Edmund H. Sears (1810–1876).  The text was first published in Boston, in The Christian Register, in 1850.

The tune used in Britain ‘is an adaptation by Sullivan of an eight-bar melody that was sent to him by a friend, which he slightly revised, completed, and harmonized’ (Keyte, p. 375).

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