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Joy to the World

(Isaac Watts/Lowell Mason/George Frideric Handel)

This popular Christmas Carol is thought to be partly based on excerpts of a melody composed by George Frideric Handel that can be heard three times in his Messiah, namely “Comfort Ye”, “Lift Up Your Heads” and “Glory to God”.  The American composer Lowell Mason then took this particular melody in 1836 and arranged and adapted it, and is the probable composer of the additional music, to make it the song we know today.  The words for the carol were written by the English hymn-writer Isaac Watts and were published in his The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719 under the title “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom”.

A favourite to appear in Christmas recordings, either as a vocal or instrumental piece, it has been recorded by countless artists, choirs and orchestras including Percy Faith, John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers, and the Boston Pops Orchestra and the composer Leroy Anderson used it in his A Christmas Festival.  The Allman Brothers used part of the carol in their song “You Don’t Love Me” and the parody sung by children “Joy to the World, Our Teacher’s Dead” was brought to the fore in the animated series The Simpsons.

Black Dyke Mills Band recordings
Chandos 4541 (CD: A Christmas Fantasy)

Boston Pops recordings
Philips 416 287 – 2 (CD:  We Wish You a Merry Christmas)
Conductor – John Williams

DG 419 414-2 (CD: White Christmas)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

RCA 09026-61685-2 (CD: Pops Christmas Party)
Conductor – Arthur Fiedler

Sony SK 48232 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – John Williams
Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra recordings
Naxos 8.990005 (CD: Joy to the World)
Conductor – Richard Hayman

Rochester Pops Orchestra
Koch CHD 1531 (CD: Joy to the World – Carols for Orchestra and Chorus)

St Louis Philharmonic Orchestra recordings
Sonari records – 7 55724 00272 3 (CD: Christmas with the Philharmonic)
Conductor – Robert Hart Baker