Song Analysis

Harps of Gold

Tuesday 16 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

"Harps of Gold" from Tori’s seasonal record Midwinter Graces is based on the traditional 19th Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard On High."

The English lyrics are based on a traditional French carol called "Les anges dans nos campagnes" ("Angels in our countrysides") which originates from Languedoc. Many versions of this carol exist and the English translation was made in 1862 by James Chadwick, Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. The carol became popular in the West Country of England and was soon described as Cornish by R.R. Chope.

In the original song, the angels play on their harps of gold to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the shepherds witness the scene over the plains. Of course, Tori’s "Harps of Gold" differs drastically from this version: all references to angels and Jesus were removed from the lyrics while she added small but significative fragments. Thus, "they" doesn’t refer anymore to angels but implicitly refers to people who don’t have much material possessions but join to sing in communion during the Christmas period ("They’ll show us how it’s done/out in the street/no they don’t have much/but listen to them sing").

In this sense, the song echoes one of the main theme of the album, which is enjoying the presence of family and friends during the Christmas holidays and valuing these relationships rather than valuing material possessions in a time plagued by financial crisis.

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