Festive Fun for string quartet
Festive Fun for string quartet
FE1028 Six vivid settings for the Christmas season
A unique and eclectic set, beautifully crafted by Rachel Stott in her own inimitable style, including Basque, Catalan, Spanish and English tunes
The words and tune of the Sussex Carol were written down by the composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams on hearing the carol sung by Harriet Verrall of Monk’s Gate near Horsham, Sussex. He published it in 1919. This short arrangement makes use of canonic imitation to suggest the bustling of people, gathering together to sing.
The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came
The exquisite melody of this Christmas carol was collected by Charles Bordes, a French composer who spent some time studying the folk music of the Basque country. The English words were created by Sabine Baring-Gould, himself a collector of folk songs and author of many hymns, including ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. The falling quavers in the violins (bars 11 – 12 and 21 – 22) suggest gently drifting snow, or the soft descent of the angel.
Fum Fum Fum
Fum Fum Fum is a Catalan carol, very popular in Spain, which probably dates from the 16th century. The irresistibly catchy rhythm of this tune captures the excitement of Christmas time and the days of feasting to come. ‘Fum, fum, fum,’ may be the imitation of a drum beat or a guitar strum; it comes as a refrain following each line of text describing the birth of Jesus. Several versions of this tune exist, with different inflections of the minor mode. I used a mixture of these accidentals to give the maximum musical spice to the arrangement.
A La Nanita Nana
A La Nanita Nana is a Spanish carol in honour of the baby Jesus, which is also known as a lullaby in the Hispanic world. The melody continually changes between major and minor modes, giving the music a gentle pathos. The lyrics contain beautiful imagery of flowing fountains and the singing of nightingales, which is reflected in the violin parts towards the end of the arrangement.
The Coventry Carol comes from the Coventry Mystery Play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and the Tailors, which tells the Christmas story. The carol takes the form of a lullaby, sung by the women of Bethlehem to their children. In the third verse the text refers to the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod, an episode which is reflected by the use of tremolo and sul ponticello in this arrangement.
The Devil among the Tailors
Not in itself particularly associated with Christmas, this well known dance tune is referred to in Thomas Hardy’s short story, Absentmindedness in a Parish Choir from the collection A Few Crusted Characters. The church musicians, who also serve the village for all festive occasions, having taken precautions against the cold in the form of hard liquor, fall asleep during the service. On being woken, they imagine that the previous night’s party is still going on, and instead of the expected hymn tune they launch straight into ‘The Devil among the Tailors’. In my arrangement the suggestion is that the fiddlers not only get the feet of the congregation tapping, they even encourage more bottles to be opened!
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