Felix Mendelssohn originally composed this melody as part of a cantata in 1840 to celebrate the invention of printing with movable type by Johannes Gutenberg. William H. Cummings adapted the melody in 1855 to fit a text by Charles Wesley that was first published in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems. The first line commonly used today, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is an alteration by George Whitefield in his 1754 Collection of hymns for social worship.
Hyfrydol is a Welsh hymn tune composed by Rowland Prichard in 1844. It was originally published in the composer’s handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal Cyfaill y Cantorion (“The Singers’ Friend”). The best-known arrangement is probably that by Ralph Vaughan Williams, which he originally produced for his revision of the English Hymnal. Popular texts paired with this tune include William Chatterton Dix’s hymn Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!, Charles Wesley’s Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Francis Harold Rowley’s (1854-1952) I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (1886), John Wilbur Chapman’s Our Great Savior (“Jesus, what a friend for sinners”) (1910), and Philip P. Bliss’ I Will Sing of My Redeemer (1876), as well as many other hymns from a variety of faith traditions.
See a list of other popular hymn and chorale themes here.