Skip to content

Two takes on the Classic Christmas Carol – “Angels We Have Heard On High” – Fingerpicking vs Chord/Melody . . . . Great things to be said for both

November 3, 2014

angels early one</a
angels complete

We find in Wikipedia that “Angels We Have Heard on High” is a Christmas carol in the public domain. The song commemorates the story of the birth of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of Luke, in which shepherds outside Bethlehem encounter a multitude of angels singing and praising the newborn child.
The words of the song are based on a traditional French carol known as Les Anges dans nos campagnes (literally, “Angels in our countryside”) composed by an unknown author in Languedoc, France. That song has received many adjustments or alignments including its most common English version that was translated in 1862 by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, northeast England. The carol quickly became popular in the West Country, where it was described as ‘Cornish’ by R.R. Chope, and featured in Pickard-Cambridge’s Collection of Dorset Carols.
There is also a Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) translation of the carol which is known as Ainglean chuala sinn gu h-ard (literally, “Angels We Have Heard on High”). This was translated into Gaelic by Iain MacMilan from James Chadwick’s English translation


In 2011 I did a FINGERPICKING arrangement of ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH which I included in
the large “UKULELE CHRISTMAS” eBook . . . Below is the YouTube video of that arrangement.

Then more recently in 2014 I did a CHORD/MELODY arrangement of the same carol and below is the YouTube video of that arrangement.

Both versions have very distinct characters as you can probably hear. The FINGERPICKING version is obviously more complex and has fluid rolling arpeggio patterns throughout. The CHORD/MELODY version is simpler . . . not so many notes . . . but still retains the basic character of the song. FINGERPICKING involves using the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand. The CHORD/MELODY arrangements simply use the thumb alone. Either way, you have 2 great way to play this song and if you’re reticent about singing, then these arrangements allow the ukulele to do the singing for you. Below are two musical examples which clearly illustrate the difference between FINGERPICKING and CHORD/MELODY arrangements.

FIRST: FINGERPICKING “Angels We Have Heard On High”
Anglels fingerpicking version 1

AND NOW: CHORD/MELODY “Angels We Have Heard On High”
Angels 1 chord melody

The 2011 publication: “Ukulele Christmas” which is actually 2 books in one as it also have a section of purely songs with chords and suggested strumming patterns sells for $24.95
The more recent 2014 publication: “Christmas Ukulele” which sells for $23.95. Purchased together gives you a combo discount price of  $40.00

For information regarding any ukulele product please

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 25, 2014 2:54 p11

    Reblogged this on UKULELE MIKE LYNCH – All things UKULELE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: