The Coventry Carol

Composer
trad.
Year of composition
1498
Arranger
Difficulty
Easy (Grades 1-3)
Duration
2 minutes
Genre
Other
Instrumentation
String quartet
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The Coventry Carol is so named as it was introduced in the English town of Coventry in the fifteenth century as part of the "Pageant of Shearman and Tailors." The anonymous "Pageant" was a mystery play which dealt with the slaughter of the innocents under King Herod described in the New Testament. The carol took on a life of its own, and in 1534 the text was first written down by Robert Croo. The melody first appears in printed form in 1591.

The bitter and discordant harmony of the original setting has been rendered in a more "regular" minor key in a variety of published arrangements. Most contemporary readings of the Coventry Carol are more or less in keeping with the harmonization devised by Sir Walford Davies in his Student's Hymnal of 1923. The Coventry Carol is an unusual Christmas carol in that it deals with the single most unpleasant event in the Nativity story and is neither "merry" nor "jolly." It is also one of the oldest English language Christmas carols still in general use. The refrain "lullay, lullay" is medieval slang for "I see, I see."

This arrangement comes with a Beginners' third violin part, and an optional bass part for use with string orchestra.

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