This carol takes the famous words the Angels said to the Shepherds in Luke 2:10-14.
The Angels take us through a number of motives and ideas expressing the range of emotions we can have when we are told “God is here!”
The first part is a calm steady beat giving reassurance to the shepherds as they encounter the angels. The parts then split into two. S/A start off with a lilting motive “of great joy”. This is shadowed by the T/B. The parts rise in pitch and dynamic to a climatic D flat major chord. The parts then fade away again still in counterpoint and finish at “for all people”.
The above is then repeated with the key words being now “Christ the Lord”.
Next is a chorale describing how they will find the baby “lying in a manger”. This is quiet and reflective.
The angel’s are not done with their message yet ! Next we have ‘four sets’ of angels each with a different idea for the words “Glory be to God in the highest”. We start with the basses who provide a walking bass line as their “idea”. This is joined next by the altos then tenors and finally the sopranos. Once all parts are singing they start to switch around. Having completed this the dynamic grows helped by increasing complexity in the organ part. The tune finally crescendos from D flat major to F major and we have a section reminiscent of the Hallelujah chorus. Indeed this is a chorus of angels that sing this. We finish on an emphatic B flat major.
Then we return to the first them with S/A and T/B shadowing and now the key expression is “peace”. It finishes with the words “on whom his favour rests”.
Finally we have an exultant “Amen” based on one of the earlier themes.