“Adeste Fidelis”: The Latin Lyrics
As to who wrote the original Latin lyrics: people mentioned have included John Francis Wade, who lived from 1711-1786. All of the earliest copies of the hymn bear his signature. But that does not mean that he wrote it. There are those who feel that Wade wrote it and that the words refer to Bonnie Prince Charlie and that the whole thing is a code for the Jacobites. Also mentioned is John Reading, an English composer and organist who lived from 1654-1692. And, finally, I found mention of King John IV of Portugal, who lived even earlier, from 1604-1656, and was known as, well, being King of Portugal. Apparently, the earliest known copy is at the ducal palace in Vila Vicosa.
“Adeste Fidelis”: The Music
And then we get to look into who wrote the music. And the answer is: no one knows. It’s possible that whoever wrote the lyrics also wrote the music. But to that list we can add; Handel, Gluck, Thomas Arne, and several lesser known composers. What we do know is that the chorale setting that we all know so well is from the English Hymnal of 1906. And we only sing a few of the many, many verses.
I spent twenty years as a church music director for various denominations, both Protestant and Catholic. Every Christmas eve and day service began with “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” And I know that I was not in the minority. It is sung every Christmas season by thousands of congregations all over the world.
“Adeste Fidelis”… by Twisted Sister?
We have a collection of unusual Christmas music. Were you aware that Squirrel Nut Zippers put out a Christmas CD? We own it. We have two Bob Rivers Christmas CDs, with such hits as “Walkin’ Round in Women’s Underwear,” and “Didn’t I Get This Last Year?” But I was surprised to find out that Twisted Sister had done a Christmas CD. Somehow, I did not associate Dee Snider with Christmas. But I was wrong. The man LOVES Christmas. He’s the type with multiple trees in every room and hallway.
Dee Snider is a man who continues to surprise me. In 1985, there was a movement to put ratings labels on albums. (An album is one of the things we had before CDs or downloads.) Dee appeared at a Congressional hearing in opposition to this along with quite a few other musicians from all sorts of differing styles. I was not expecting Dee Snider—the lead singer for Twisted Sister—to be intelligent and eloquent. He is both.
More recently, in 2012, he put out a CD entitled Dee Does Broadway. There are a lot of duets in this. One of them is even with Patti LuPone! I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but I am liking what I hear. Dee’s version of “Mack the Knife” is worth checking out.
Anyway, back to the Christmas CD and "O Come, All Ye Faithful." The first time I heard the album, I was floored at how much “O Come, All ye Faithful” sounded like “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Turns out this is not a fluke. When Dee Snider wrote the Twisted Sister hit, he borrowed the opening line from the Christmas carol. But it did not hit me until I heard the carol done in the Twisted Sister style.
I’ll be posting some versions of this song every day on my Minnich Music Facebook page, so visit there to hear them! If you have any stories about “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” or Dee Snider and one of his songs, let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you.
I’ll be posting roughly once a week with a new song. I’m trying to make the songs seasonal, but I can make exceptions. So, if there’s a song that you’d like some background on, or questions about what it means, let me know.
Until next time!