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"Joy to the World"

Early New England Christmas Carol





"Joy to the World" is the earliest Christmas carol by a New Englaner which is still popular today.

Some confusion still persists about this popular carol.

Lowell Mason

Many Christmas songbooks still credit the carol to George Frideric Handel, when actually it should be credited to Lowell Mason (born in Medfield, Massachusetts, 1792/ died in Orange, New Jersey, 1872).

The confusion began because Mason wrote "Arranged from Handel" at the top of the music since he had selected two passages from Handel's oratorio, MESSIAH, as the basis for his own arrangement.

Both passages are from Part One of Handel's MESSIAH.

The first passage is from the Chorus which sings:

Glory to God in the highest

This corresponds to the opening line of Mason's carol:

Joy to the world the Lord is come

The second passage is from the accompaniment to the opening Tenor solo recitative on the words:

Comfort ye my people

That accompaniment is similar to the second part Mason's carol on the words:

And heav'n and nature sing

Here are the complete four verses of this carol:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare him room,
Andt heav'n and nature sing, And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and hea'n and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

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

-- Isaac Watts, 1719



"Joy to the World" (tune name: ANTIOCH) was written by Lowell Mason to words by Isaac Watts and first published in The Modern Psalmist in 1839.

The carol was later revised for a tune-book with a lengthy title:
The National Psalmist; A Collection of the Most Popular and Useful Psalm and Hymn Tunes; Together with a Great Variety of New Tunes, Anthems, Sentences, and Chants, by Lowell Mason and George James Webb (Boston, 1848). It is this revised version [shown above] of the New England carol that has become the standard version today.

This Christmas carol was not immediately popular during the 19th century but eventually was reprinted in later music collections.

It is one of the few American Christmas carols included in the massive collection of music contributed by 20,000 people titled, Heart Songs: Melodies of days gone by (Boston: Chapple Publishing Company, Ltd., 1909). In this collection "Joy To The World" is credited to Isaac Watts and "Tune, Antioch, by L. Mason."

It has been reported that "Joy to the World" was "the most published American Christmas hymn in North America" in 1,387 hymnals [ Wikipedia ].

It seems many folks enjoy following the words from the line of "Joy to the World" to --

Repeat the sounding joy!

-- Roger Lee Hall, Director, Center for American Music Preservation


"Joy To The World" is one of the Christmas carols included on of this CD...

"New Bethlehem" - Christmas Music in New England

Hear the popular gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, sing "Joy to the World", as arranged back in the 1950s by Johnny Williams (yes that is John Williams, the world-famous film composer) featured on the "New Bethlehem" CD -- click here (for streaming only)






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One Horse Open Sleigh: The Story of "Jingle Bells"



Additional CDs

Here are a few other recommended CDs with
New England Christmas music:


Joy of Angels:
Shaker Music for Christmas and the New Year


"Hail to the joyous day!"
Christmas Music in America






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Joy of Angels: Shaker Spirituals for Christmas and The New Year

"New Bethlehem" -
Christmas Music in New England

New England Christmas Music

Top Christmas
Hit Songs








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