GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN                                                           written in 1865

The Story

The popular musical The Sound of Music speaks of the hills of Austria being alive with the sound of music, but long before that musical was written, the Appalachian Mountains in America were alive with musical sound.

John Wesley Work (1872-1925) grew up in Nashville, TN, loving music. He became a professor of Latin and Greek, but his first love was always music… and he spent much of his life roaming the Appalachian Mountains with his brother Frederick, collecting, arranging, and promoting music that he found in those mountains. This proved to be a daunting task for Work because those folk songs and negro spirituals were passed down orally, from clan to clan and plantation to plantation; very few were ever written down. But John proved up to the challenge, publishing his first book, New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, in Songs of the American Negro, 6 years later. It was in this second volume that this first appeared.

This song was the result of John’s tweaking of an old folk song; he didn’t write it but he can take credit for the fact we sing it today. It was written about 1965, but was not published until John added verses to an old chorus and published it in 1907.

The original singers of the song fulfilled the same important task the angels gave the shepherds that first Christmas night outside of Bethlehem, proclaiming, “that Jesus Christ is born!” And, thanks to John Wesley Work, so can we.

The Song

            Read this Christmas folk song, then – today – go… and tell it in a way that everyone can hear.

CHORUS

Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!

While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. (Chorus)

The shepherds feared and trembled, when lo!, above the earth,
rang out the angels chorus that hailed the Savior’s birth. (Chorus)

Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn. (Chorus)

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