One of our oldest, still active hymns, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, comes from a seven verse poem dating back to the 8th century. The poem created the reverse acrostic “ero cras” (I shall be with you tomorrow) – particularly appropriate for Advent. In the 13th century, five of the seven verses of the poem appeared as a metrically sung version (as opposed to the original chanted version) and, in 1851, John Mason Neale, an Anglican priest and hymnwriter, translated the verses into English.
Over the years, changes to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’s text grew gradually and there are many variations. But there is one consistent change to the original poem: the added refrain “Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel”.
O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel commonly uses the tune Veni Emmanuel thanks to Thomas Helmore (1811-1890), an Anglican priest, choirmaster, and author/editor of hymns and carols. During a time of renewed interest in plainchant, Helmore matched the text with music from a Requiem Mass in a 15th century French Franciscan processional and published the hymn in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854).
In my Advent piano arrangement of Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, I borrowed portions of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and added a steady rhythmic motif. It’s a simple-to-prepare arrangement that evokes a real sense longing – perfect for those busy weeks leading up to Christmas. Enjoy!