Monday, June 24, 2013

"There Are Angels Hovering Round" -- folk hymn sung by Fisk Jubilee Singers at a Moody & Sankey revival in England, 187__? ** UPDATED 3x ** Tune also in Sacred Harp + cite to scholarly article on Moody revivals, Fisk singers in England

A mid- to late-19th-century camp meeting, revival and Sunday School gospel hymn that brings together the big themes I want to develop in my upcoming Illinois Humanities Council talks on "Transcending Boundaries: Appalachian Folk Hymns, African American Spirituals and Dwight Moody."

Widely published in the mid-19th century, arranged by one of Dwight Moody's songwriters and sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers at Newcastle-on-Tyne in one of the first, maybe the first joint appearances at a Moody-and-Sankey revival ... it's a common camp meeting song from before the Civil War (details below), arranged in 1874 by Philip Bliss, a songwriter for Cady & Root who joined Moody in 1869 and also wrote "Hold the Fort" before his untimely death in December 1876. Not part of the spirituals repertory, but obviously an excellent choice of music for the occasion on the Jubilee Singers' part! But a favorite in any event. The website lists 152 instances at, mostly from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bliss' arrangement, in four-part-harmony, is in Gospel Songs: A Choice Collection of Hymns and Tunes, New and Old ... available on Google Books No. 176.

PDF file on line at ... lyrics and link to PDF at ...

Hear it on YouTube ...

A lovely spiritual art song arrangement by soprano Karen Parks of ____, but with a bridge and additional lyrics that don't appear in the old revival hymnals.

More in the original spirit, perhaps (although a little slower on the tempo than I'd like) is this four-part harmony arrangement in a Christmas Concert at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston, Mass.

The story of how the kids from Fisk sang it at Moody's revivals in the UK is told in The story of the Jubilee Singers, including their songs (1903) by Marsh, J. B. T; Loudin, F. J. (Frederick J.)

The labors of the Singers in connection with the meetings of Messrs. Moody and Sankey were one oi the most memorable features of this visit to the North. They first met the evangelists at Newcastle on-Tyne, and for some days lent daily assistance ii the great work. Their songs were found to be es- pecially adapted to promote the revival. One inci- dent in connection with one of the noonday prayer- meetings, of which Mr. Moody often spoke after- wards, cannot be better told than in the words of Rev. Mr. Robjohns : '' The Jubilee Singers had been specially prayed for. A moment's pause, and there went up in sweet, low notes a chorus as of angels. None could tell where the Singers were, — on the floor, in the gallery, or in the air. The crowd was close, and the Singers — wherever they were — were sitting. Every one was thrilled, for this was the song they sang:
There are angels hovering round
To carry the tidings home.'
The notes are before us as we write, simple enough, — the words, too ; but one should hear the Jubilees sing them. It was like a snatch of angelic song heard from the upper air as a band of celestials [68 THE JUBILEE SINGERS.] passed swiftly on an errand of mercy." And he adds: *'Nor are these all our obligations to our beloved friends. They have gone in and out the churches, Sunday-schools, and mission-rooms, sing- ing for Jesus. Such services to souls and Christ have opened wide the people's hearts, and the Jubilees have just v^alked straight in, to be there enshrined for evermore."

In the great work at Edinburgh, also, the Singers rendered special assistance, sometimes taking part in as many as six meetings a day, — prayer-meetings, inquiry-meetings, Bible readings, preaching services, etc. On one Sunday evening Mr. Moody preached, and they sang, to an audience of between six and seven thousand working-people, gathered by special cards of invitation in the Corn Exchange, w^hich was followed by an inquiry meeting, at which some seven hundred asked for prayer.

Available on line at

The Rev. Henry Thomas Robjohns was a Congregationalist minister in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in Northumberland from 1861 to 1874, a prolific author who later moved to Australia and served as director of the Sydney Bible Society. Died there in 1906.

Mudcat Café thread at Bluegrass Messengers' website has authoritative information. (Very good website -- careful about sources, origins, etc. -- worth checking out.):

Angels Hovering Round/There Are Angels Hovering Round
Public Domain/Traditional Old-Time, Bluegrass Gospel Arranged by Philip Bliss 1874;
ARTIST: Arranged by Philip Bliss- 1874
CATEGORY: Traditional Bluegrass Gospel;
DATE: 1800s; 1857 Harmoniad and Sacred Melodist. First Recorded
RECORDING INFO: Angels Hovering Round - Bliss, P. P. (Phillip)

NOTES: "Angels Hovering Round" was arranged by Philip Bliss in 1874. It was included in Jackson's Spiritual Folk Songs of Early America and clearly is a traditional folk hymn. The 1857 Harmoniad and Sacred Melodist: Comprising a fine collection of popular Hymns By Asa Fitz lists Husband as the author. Bliss can be listed as an arranger only.

Sheet music:

George Pullen Jackson, Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America No. 211 (p. 213) has it from (REV 74?). "Pentatonic, cannot be classified (I II III - V- VII)" [paren. in Jackson]. Same tune with minor variations in 1859 ed. Sacred Harp, p. 425.

[Tangent: Follows Happy Sailor (No. 210) in Jackson.]

Sacred Harp calls it GOLDEN STREETS (425b) and attributes the tune to J.L. Pickard, a planter of Talbot County, Georgia, who died of measles during the Civil War. Lyrics: "I am on my journey home ... / To the New Jerusalem ..." The words are a floating lyric that also appears in JEFFERSON and elsewhere.

Sacred Harp Singing Union Maine 2011. Uploaded by YouTube user jsalzer262

** 2nd UPDATE ** -- According to Andrew Ward, Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), the performance in Newcastle was Nov. 12, 1873. Ella Shepherd recalled:

During a pause following an earnest appeal to sinners we softly sang, "There are angels hovering round / to carry the tidings home." The effect was wonderful. ... Some people said they really thought for a moment that the music came from an angelic band. Mr. Moody looked as tough he would not have been more surprised had his Lord appeared. (243)
3rd UPDATE: The connection between Moody and the Jubilee Singers is the subject of a recent scholarly article: "An inestimable blessing": the American gospel invasion of 1873.(Jubilee Singers and Dwight Moody-Ira Sankey in Great Britain) ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly), Sept. 1, 2002. By Stowe, David W.

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