'Go Tell it on the Mountain' Christmas Song

'Go Tell it on the Mountain' Christmas Carol History and Angels

Christmas songs
The Christmas song 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is a beloved carol that relates to angels. David Sucsy / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

The Christmas song 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is a beloved Christmas carol that conveys the enthusiasm of people who heard the angelic announcement of Jesus Christ's birth in Bethlehem. Here's the history of this holiday spiritual:

Composer

John Wesley Work or Frederick Jerome Work

Lyricist

John Wesley Work or Frederick Jerome Work

Sample Lyrics

"The shepherds feared and trembled/When lo! above the earth/Rang out the angels' chorus/That hailed the Savior’s birth./Go, tell it on the mountain/Over the hills and everywhere/Go, tell it on the mountain/That Jesus Christ is born."

Angel Connection

'Go Tell it on the Mountain' describes the moment when the sky above Bethlehem filled with angels singing on the first Christmas. The Bible describes in Luke chapter two that a single angel (who was likely Archangel Gabriel) first announced Jesus Christ's birth to shepherds in the fields below, and then: "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'" (Luke 2:13-14).

Since the angel who announced Jesus Christ's birth told the shepherds in Luke 2:10: "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people," the Christmas carol 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' describes that "good news" being told in the way that Isaiah 52:7 of the Torah and the Bible describes "good news" being told: "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"

Fun Fact

The recording group Peter, Paul and Mary adapted 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' to a song they called 'Tell it on the Mountain' in 1963 with a civil rights theme.

History

'Go Tell it on the Mountain' is an African-American spiritual that was first published in 1907 in the book Folk Songs of the Amer­i­can Ne­gro, featuring an arrangement of music and words by John Wesley Work.

But some historians think that Work's father, Frederick Jerome Work, originally wrote the song and his son simply arranged and published it. Other historians believe that the song's author was an anonymous slave from the American Civil War era, who began singing it to other slaves who then began singing it themselves.

The energetic song became popular as an especially fun Christmas carol to sing. A diverse array of popular recording artists have performed 'Go Tell it on the Mountain,' including Sheryl Crow, Garth Brooks, Bing Crosby, Simon & Garfunkel, Dolly Parton, Frank Sinatra, Mahalia Jackson, and Jewel.