Mount Moriah


Jon brackets the next three day’s songs as being, “More biggies from the Sheffield tradition.” The title of this is most curious and I wonder if it refers to the tune, although the village carol site has it listed by the same name here. I find it curious as the titular mount doesn’t feature in the lyrics and seems to relate to the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac and the subsequent building of a temple by Solomon. It seems to be holy both in Judaism and Islam. Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t see its relevance  to Jesus. This Wiki page made nothing clearer, so perhaps those with more theological zeal than I can cast light in dark corners, or is this just another Spout Cottage as it does appear on the carols’ site.

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28 Responses to “Mount Moriah”

  1. Joe Offer says:

    Jesus, of course, was a Jew. He was presented in the temple after he was born, and many high points of his life took place in the temple. After his death, his followers continued to practice Judaism until the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, so it was also a place sacred to Christianity. If you visit Israel, you’re never quite sure which mountain is which, but Moriah, Mount Zion, and the Temple Mount may well be one and the same, and Calvary is the mountain on the other side of the Old City of Jerusalem (although they all look like large hills to us in California). I do not believe that the New Testament refers to the mountain as Moriah at all, and I can find only two Old Testament references to Mount Moriah.

    I couldn’t find much information on this song, other than the entry linked to above at
    The song is not in the original or new edition of the Oxford Book of Carols. The Roud Folk Song Index says you’ll find the song in the “Sheffield Book of Village Carols,” but that’s about it. Oh, and there’s nothing on this song at Mudcat.

    Interesting song, though. Note that the lyrics of the song do not make mention of Mount Moriah at all.

    -Joe Offer, The Mudcat Cafe-

  2. Sue says:

    From the West Country brought up staunch non conformist- as soon as I saw the title that was the connotation it had for me.
    I would look to eiether Baptist/Methodist origins or adoption.

  3. muzza says:

    Ref the last chorus……….”In every land and tongue”-carol site) is a tad more widespread than “In every land and town”…(Jon’s version)or is it my old ears playing up!

  4. Cyan says: links a tune called Mount Moriah to the hymn text “Bound upon the accursed tree” – which would certainly fit the sacrificial theme of Abraham and Isaac more than it fits a Christmas text that doesn’t reference Easter- but can’t find the tune in any hymnals and in any case it would be hard work fitting this tune to that text.

    There are of course chapels called Mount Moriah – may be that the tune is named from one of them

  5. John Burton says:

    The “Worrall Blue Book” states: Composer not known…Also known as Glory to God.

  6. Shelley says:

    I’m also of West(ish) country Methodist upbringing – I’ll have a rummage through my musty old copy of the Methodist Hymn Book. I don’t recognise this one at all.

  7. wilmott says:

    The relevence of the Abraham/Isaac story to Christmas is that it is supposed to prefigure God sending his son to Earth to be a sacrifice.
    What a smashing tune!

  8. David says:

    Anyone other than me think that this tune is a direct steal from “Rule Britannia”?

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    I’m anoraked this uphill and down dale with little joy! One source said it was Traditional English (i.e. composer unknown), but it is certainly sung by a lot of Lutherans!

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Ref “I find it curious as the titular mount doesn’t feature in the lyrics and seems to relate to the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac and the subsequent building of a temple by Solomon.”

    I think the title refers to the place Mount Moriah as where the action urged in the song should/did take place. The place relates to the story of Abraham and Isaac, but that does not mean there is a direct link between the words of the carol and that story (because there clearly isn’t) only the/a place.

    And the trouble with trying to find information on the alternative title ‘Glory to God’ is there are a number of different hymns of that same or similar title. One or two Lutheran references I found linked ‘Glory to God’ to ‘Go, Tell It On The Mountain.’

    Since those lyrics are about the same thing as ‘Mount Moriah’, i.e. proclaiming the Nativity, maybe Mount Moriah was simply the mountain from which one was supposed to go tell it?

  11. Dave Eyre says:

    We do sing “tongue” but I am not sure if this is deliberate (or a mishearing on Jon’s part). It certainly makes more sense. I also think this is better but the fugueing chorus in the pub is what makes it one of the “big” songs. It is complex though! Sounds great done this too!

  12. Jerry Simon says:

    If you find a Sheffield carol where it’s hard to see how to relate the title to the words – don’t try. It’s because there IS no connection. ‘Mount Moriah’ is the name of a TUNE, ‘Spout Cottage’ ‘Stannington’, ‘Back Lane’, are the names of tunes… so we don’t have to work out how Jesus, or angels, perhaps appeared to cheer the flagging spirits and proclaim redemption to incarcerated felons in ‘Pentonville’ – or struggle to understand why the title Mount Moriah for this set of lyrics. Chasing wild geese… Very tiring, and you’ll probably not catch one.
    I absolutely love singing this one, full throttle, I think we repeated the ‘in every land and tongue’ chorus at least 3, but may have been 4 times last night at the Top Red in Grenoside and it’s still ringing in my head. And I don’t think it’s remotely like the far inferior tune ‘Rule Britannia’. (Personal taste only, of course.)

  13. Jon Boden says:

    A mishearing! (Although I’m pretty sure lots of other people sing ‘town’ too.) Definitely need the fugueing though as Dave says.

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Jerry. I did try, but so right about the exhausting search! However, there has to be a reason for the names of any and all Sheffield carols and I have the feeling place must be the link, but that could be as in just local to the locals. For example, we have a places called locally Little Egypt and The Walls of Jericho in Thornton, Bradford.

    I thought Mount Moriah might be a church/chapel place as suggested by Cyan above. A lot of different denomination (esp American) churches seem to adopt Mount Moriah as a name, but can’t find any in Sheffield! So just a magical musical mystery tour experience then!

  15. julie says:

    from the theological point of view, Jesus is the Lamb of God, the sacrifice provided by God to atone for the sins of the world, in the same way as God provided the lamb in place of Isaac. God sending Jesus means that there is no more need for the animal sacrifices for atonement. Thus the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, Abraham’s absolute trust and obedience to God, and God’s provision, holds a very significant place in the Christian faith. This would explain the popularity of naming places Mount Moriah – it is a place of great hope and redemption. and why a tune of that name is suitable for a Christmas carol
    As to the naming of the tune itself – pass, but there is a strong non-conformist tradition of naming tunes after biblical places, not necessarily local, purely as an appropriately pious title for the tune.

  16. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you, Julie, for your additional knowledge, which helps my understanding and fits the trend I was following.

  17. Diana says:

    More of a hymn than a carol I believe, but none the worse for that. I quite liked this and the tune was joyful.

  18. muzza (Surrey) says:

    I only know a few things about Biblical history:-
    So I met this tennis player and he said he had walked all the way from Damascus…I said..”you cannot be Syrian!”

    and Moses had a motorbike…it was reported that the sound of his Triumph was heard in Jericho.

    “Now…should I press the delete or submit button?”

    The Devil made me do it!

  19. amanda Hill says:

    …. in every land and TONGUE… in eveeevvery land and TONGUE… cloth ears.. LOL

  20. Diana says:

    Still think this is a hymn rather than a carol but nice all the same. Nicely sung as well.

  21. Linda says:

    Like the song and am enjoying the Sheffield tradition.
    @Muzza you might like to catch this one it was on BBC 4 last night, A Very English Winter;The Unthanks. [it’s on again on Thursday/Friday at 01.00 am] spot Jon at The Royal during ther carol singing, It.s worth a watch.

  22. Muzza+409days (NW Surrey-UK) says:

    @Linda….Thanks for the tip.but I did catch it last night

  23. Jeremy Main says:

    This may be folk tradition drift from the Welsh hymn tune “Moriah”. It should also be mentioned that Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church is one of the homeds of the US Sacred Harp folk hymnary tradition.
    To add a little to Julie’s theology, Mount Moriah is the original name of Temple Mount in Jerusalem, of which Golgotha is an outcrop. Therefore, there is also a geographical link between the Abrahamic commitment and the Crucifixion.

  24. Priscilla Jensen says:

    Cast your ear on this for a moment . . I could be deaf or tin-eared by now (have been trawling website for hours) but seems like it could be a cousin-tune, liberated into fuguing in the North? A tune called “Moriah” for “Love Divine all Loves Excelling”, and
    Am I hearing things? (could be and I didn’t really study hard)

  25. Priscilla Jensen says:

    I missed Jeremy’s post . . d’oh.

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  27. Old Muzza (N W Surrey) says:

    Ref Dave and Jon’s comments in 2010 about ‘fuguing’….I thought they were having a bit of a laugh at our expense….but it does exist..
    But for my part I will forego the fugue if I may !!!!!
    see the following:-
    Fuguing tunes are sacred music, specifically, Protestant hymns. They are written for a four-part chorus singing a cappella. George Pullen Jackson has described the fuguing tune as follows:
    In the fuging tune all the parts start together and proceed in rhythmic and harmonic unity usually for the space of four measures or one musical sentence. The end of this sentence marks a cessation, a complete melodic close. During the next four measures the four parts set in, one at a time and one measure apart. First the basses take the lead for a phrase a measure long, and as they retire on the second measure to their own proper bass part, the [tenors] take the lead with a sequence that is imitative of, if not identical with, that sung by the basses. The tenors in turn give way to the altos, and they to the trebles, all four parts doing the same passage (though at different pitches) in imitation of the [part in the] preceding measure. … Following this fuguing passage comes a four-measure phrase, with all the parts rhythmically neck and neck, and this closes the piece; though the last eight measures are often repeated.[1]

  28. Kathy Otten says:

    On the subject of misheard lyrics of Sheffield carols (town for tongue in today’s) I love the way in How beautiful upon the Mountain the original lyrics ” how beautiful upon the Mountain are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings” has changed to “…are the fields, the fields that bring us glad tidings” which is the version sung and printed in the song sheets at the sportsman Lodgemoor.
    It’s great that we can all have the words to these fantastic carols but will this stop them evolving?

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