Go Tell It on the Mountain was born in the rich and indomitable oral culture of African slaves in the American south. A hundred years later it became a rallying cry for the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. And now, it's a perennial favourite at Christmas concerts and church services across North America.
The spiritual Go Tell It on the Mountain has come to mean many things depending on the time and place in which it is sung. Freedom anthem, hymn of faith, a simple song of Christmas. As is the case with most spirituals, its music and lyrics cannot be attributed to any one person. African-American composer John Wesley Work is credited with formally adapting the song and including it in a songbook in 1907. But the versions of Go Tell It on the Mountain are as varied and distinctive as the people performing it. The lyrics have been adapted and re-adapted and personalized countless times. And it is always, at its heart, a celebration.