Music for the Naming of our Lord — Sunday January 1 2023

Joy to the World – Text: Isaac Watts (1674-1748) / Music: Melody attr. George Frederick Handel (1685-1759); adapt. and harm. Lowell Mason (1792-1872)


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Isaac Watts (1674-1748) based Joy to the World on Psalm 98:8-9 and published this paraphrase in his Psalms of David 1719, under the heading “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.” A very popular hymn in North America, Joy to the World has never found its way into English hymnals. A very prolific writer, Watts may be considered the father of English hymnody. He is not the inventor of the English hymn, but it was he who enabled English hymnody to break free of the strict confines of metrical psalmody.

Watts’ hymn is sung to the tune Antioch, and although the melody has commonly been attributed to George Frederick Handel, there is little in common with anything he wrote except for the first four notes, a motif that Handel used in the Messiah, in the opening phrase of the chorus “Glory to God.” The tune first appeared in Occasional Psalms and Hymn Tunes, Boston 1838, published by the American banker, educator, and prolific hymn-tune writer Lowell Mason (1792-1872) with the heading “arranged from Handel.” It is most likely that Mason himself is responsible for the tune in its entirety.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns:
let us glad songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.

Gerald Harder