“Glory in the Highest (Gloria en las alturas)”
AUTHOR: Traditional Puerto Rican; English trans. Gerhard Cartford
COMPOSER: Traditional Puerto Rican; arr. Raquel Mora Martinez
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3057
SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-13
TOPIC: Christmas, glory, angels' song, peace on earth, Jesus in us, hearts, Morning Star, glad tidings
This Christmas song from Puerto Rico is short with lots of Spanish-Latino rhythm, energy, and vitality. It may be sung in Spanish, English, or both. It is most effective with guitars and hand percussion -- tambourine, claves, maracas, shakers, and a hand drum to accent the quarter beat rests in the voice line.
The song's AABB structure lends itself to call-and-response or antiphonal singing of opposite forces: leader-congregation, choir-congregation, children-congregation, men-women, left-right, balcony-nave, and so on.
Raquel Martinez (b.January 17, 1940) is a well-known composer and arranger of Hispanic songs and hymns. She has degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso and Perkins School of Theology and the School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University. She served as editor of the official United Methodist hymnal, Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996).
Translator Gerhard Cartford (b. 1923) has degrees from St. Olaf College and Union Theological Seminary and a doctorate in musicology from the University of Minnesota. He translated numerous Spanish-language songs for the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal. He "brought the whole church an understanding of Hispanic Lutheran liturgical and musical resources through his work to establish a sung Hispanic Lutheran liturgy."
The range of the melody lies within a sixth, E up to C, well within the congregational comfort zone. The A section's nine-word phrase is repeated in its second phrase, using only four melody notes. The B section, also a repeated phrase, extends to the interval of a sixth. The song is a combination of a straight duple 2+2+2+2 rhythmic pattern and a syncopated 3+3+2 pattern. Keeping the song in 2/2 meter rather than 4/4 will help with integrating the two patterns. Sounding an accented hand drum, piano bass note, or some other rhythmic emphasis on the initial quarter note rest of each phrase will help the congregation to enter correctly on its proper beat.
The largely homophonic accompaniment by Raquel Martinez in the accompaniment edition provides a good suggestion for keyboard as well as guitar rhythm.
Stanza one joins the familiar words of the angels from Luke 2 with a call for us to sing out the glad tidings. Stanza two suggests that Jesus seeks no separate lodging on earth, but rather seeks to dwell in the hearts of all believers.