Home > String quartet > The Carman's Whistle

The Carman's Whistle

Composer
William Byrd
Arranger
Difficulty
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
Duration
8 minutes
Genre
Classical music
Instrumentation
String quartet
Instrumental parts
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William Byrd (c.1540-1623) wrote this jaunty jig-type tune for virginal (harpsichord) based on a tune whistled by a carman (driver of a coach or wagon). Carmen were known for whistling tunes (and variations thereof) to occupy the long hours on the coach (or wagon) seat, and, supposedly, to cheer their horses when they were tired or straining under a heavy load. I have taken the liberty of writing out ornaments that normally would have been improvised (though the historical accuracy of the type of ornaments I have used can certainly be called into question).

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