Gabriel’s Message

“Gabriel’s Message” (aka “The Angel Gabriel to Heaven Came”) is a folk carol from the Basque Country, the region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees Mountains in adjacent parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. A vernacular paraphrase of the 13th/14th-century Latin carol, “Angelus ad virginem,” the text was translated from Basque and paraphrased into English by the Anglican priest and scholar Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924).

Commonly sung at Advent and Christmas, “Gabriel’s Message” quotes the biblical account of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) and the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in its opening lines:

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
“All hail”, said he, “thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady.” Gloria!

See all four verses here (PDF); opens in a new tab.

The Basque tune was collected and published by the French composer Charles Bordes (1863-1909) in Archives de la tradition basque (1890) and was arranged and published by the English organist/choirmaster Edgar Pettman (1866-1943) in his 1892 collection, Modern Christmas Carols. Pettman’s setting remains a favorite among choirs to this day.

This arrangement features each of the voices of the brass quintet on the tune and augments the ensemble with optional finger cymbals and tambourine.

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba, finger cymbals/tambourine) — $12.99

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