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"Joy to the World"

Earliest Popular New England Carol



"Joy to the World" is the earliest New England Christmas carol still popular today.

Some confusion still persists about this popular carol.

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 tune. The text by English hymnwriter, Isaac Watts, does not refer specifically to the birth of Jesus, but thanks to Mason's vocal setting, it became associated with Christmas by the early 20th century .

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 is the complete two 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.




"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. It is believed that Mason found the tune in an earlier published English collection and arranged it so he should be credited with the version sung today.

The carol was later revised for a tune-book titled, 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 1848 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"(page 169) is credited to only Isaac Watts and "Tune, Antioch, 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, Christians and non-Christians alike, were following the words from the second verse of "Joy to the World" to --

Repeat the sounding joy!

-- Roger Lee Hall, AMRA


"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) --

Click here




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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


Christmas Music in America
(Two centuries of Christmas carols and songs)


Christmas in Early America

Christmas in Early America: 18th Century Carols and Anthems
(The Columbus Consort)


Carols From the Old & New Worlds, Vol. 1
- Theatre of Voices, Paul Hillier, director


Carols From the Old & New Worlds, Vol. 2 -
- The Pro Arte Singers, Indiana University Children's Chamber Choir,
Paul Hillier, director

Christmas Caroling Through The Ages -
with The Gregg Smith Singers & Friends



Popular Christmas CDs


A few CDs that include popular New England Christmas carols:


To Wish You a Merry Christmas


One of the most beautiful popular Christmas albums was recorded in the 1950s by the sublime voice of Harry Belafonte.

To order this soothing and serene CD, click this link:

To Wish You A Merry Christmas




RED, WHITE and BLUE: Christmas Hit Songs by Gene, Bing, and Elvis


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Christmas Music in America

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

New England Christmas Music

Top Christmas
Hit Songs








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