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"Adeste Fideles" is a Christmas carol which has been attributed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711 – 1786), with the earliest copies of the hymn all bearing his signature, John Reading (1645 – 1692) and King John IV of Portugal (1604 – 1656).
The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. The English translation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841, is widespread in most English speaking countries. The present harmonization is from the English Hymnal (1906).
Besides John Francis Wade, the tune has been purported to be written by several musicians, from John Reading and his son to Handel and even Gluck, including the Portuguese composers Marcos Portugal or the king John IV of Portugal himself. Thomas Arne, whom Wade knew, is another possible composer. There are several similar musical themes written around that time, though it can be hard to determine whether these were written in imitation of the hymn, the hymn was based on them, or they are totally unconnected.
John Francis Wade included it in his own publication of Cantus Diversi (1751). It was published again in the 1760 edition of Evening Offices of the Church. It also appeared in Samuel Webbe's An Essay on the Church Plain Chant (1782).
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Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
There are additional Latin verses in various sources. For example:
En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas,
Stella duce, Magi Christum adorantes,
Æterni parentis splendorem æternum
Pro nobis egenum et faeo cubantem,
Cantet nunc hymnos chorus angelorum
Cantet nunc aula cælestium,
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus (3x)
The original text has been from time to time attributed to various groups and individuals, including St. Bonaventure in the 13th century or King John IV of Portugal in the 17th, though it was more commonly believed that the text was written by an order of monks, the Cistercian, German, Portuguese and Spanish orders having, at various times, been given credit.
The original text consisted of four Latin verses, and it was with these that the hymn was originally published. John Francis Wade had written the hymn in Latin in 1744, and was first published in 1751. The Abbé Jean-François-Étienne Borderies (fr) wrote an additional three verses in the 18th century; these are normally printed as the third to fifth of seven verses, while another, anonymous, additional Latin verse is rarely printed. The text has been translated innumerable times, but the most used version today is the English "O Come, All Ye Faithful". This is a combination of one of Frederick Oakeley's translations of the original four verses and William Thomas Brooke's of the three additional ones, which was first published in Murray's Hymnal in 1852. Oakeley originally titled the song “Ye Faithful, approach ye” when it was sung at his Margaret Church in Marylebone before it was altered to its current form.
The most commonly named Portuguese author is King John IV of Portugal (Portuguese: D. João IV de Portugal, pronounced: [ʒuˈɐ̃w̃]). "The Musician King" (1604–1656, came to the throne in 1640) was a patron of music and the arts and a considerably sophisticated writer on music; in addition, he was a composer, and during his reign he collected one of the largest musical libraries in the world (destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755). The first part of his musical work was published in 1649. He founded a Music School in Vila Viçosa that 'exported' musicians to Spain and Italy and it was at his Vila Viçosa palace that the two 1640 manuscripts of the "Portuguese Hymn" were found. Those manuscripts predate Wade's eighteenth-century manuscript. Among the King's writings is a Defense of Modern Music (Lisbon, 1649). In the same year (1649) he had a huge struggle to get instrumental music approved by the Vatican for use in the Catholic Church. His other famous composition is a setting of the Crux fidelis, a work that remains highly popular during Lent amongst church choirs.
The hymn has been interpreted as a Jacobite birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University, claims that the carol is actually a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the secret political code being decipherable by the "faithful" (the Jacobites), with Bethlehem a common Jacobite cipher for England and Regem Angelorum a pun on Angelorum (Angels) and Anglorum (English). Wade had fled to France after the Jacobite rising of 1745 was crushed. From the 1740s to 1770s the earliest forms of the carol commonly appeared in English Roman Catholic liturgical books close to prayers for the exiled Old Pretender. In the books by Wade it was often decorated with Jacobite floral imagery, as were other liturgical texts with coded Jacobite meanings.
In performance verses are often omitted, either because the hymn is too long in its entirety or because the words are unsuitable for the day on which they are sung. For example the eighth anonymous verse is only sung on Epiphany, if at all; while the last verse of the original is normally reserved for Christmas Midnight Mass, Mass at Dawn, or Mass During the Day.
In the United Kingdom and United States it is often sung today in an arrangement by Sir David Willcocks, which was originally published in 1961 by Oxford University Press in the first book in the Carols for Choirs series. This arrangement makes use of the basic harmonisation from The English Hymnal but adds a soprano descant in verse six (verse three in the original) with its reharmonised organ accompaniment, and a last verse harmonisation in verse seven (verse four in the original), which is sung in unison.
Numerous versions have been recorded by artists from around the world.
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The hymn was known as the Portuguese Hymn after the Duke of Leeds in 1795 heard it being sung at the Portuguese embassy in London. However, the translation that he heard differs greatly from the Oakeley-Brooke translation, and was over forty years after John Francis Wade had published the hymn in 1751.
A different account of the story is that King John IV of Portugal wrote this hymn to accompany his daughter Catherine to England, where she married King Charles II.
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