The First Nowell for String Quartet

By vaughan • 7th December 2010 • Posted in: Manor House Music Recordings

The First Nowell for String Quartet – The First Nowell (or The First Noel) features on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first CD of string quartet Christmas carols, entitled ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’. It is arranged by violinist Vaughan Jones and an audio sample can be heard by following the above link.

string quartet Christmas carols

The front cover of our popular first album of string quartet Christmas carols called ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’

‘The First Nowell’ is one of the most popular tunes associated with Christmas but is however a potentially tricky one for the arranger. The reason is that the tune seems to oscillate between A major and D major chords and this can give it the feeling of being ‘samey’ or a little dull. The challenge was to try and deviate from this and give harmonic variety but not so much so that the beautiful simplicity of the melody was in anyway lost.

The carol seems to have started life as a folk melody but was first published in ‘Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern’ (1823) and the word Nowell seems to derive from the lating ‘natalis’ meaning birth. It is thought that this was a Christmas carol traditionally sung as the Yule log was lit.

It works wonderfully for string quartet with the melody emerging clearly and with sensitivity.

You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here:

The First Nowell – Music Score



Comments are closed.


Recent Posts


About Manor House Music

Manor House Music is a wedding string quartet and duo consisting of some of the UK’s finest musicians. Based on the borders of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, we’ve now performed for over 800 weddings, corporate events and private functions all over the South East and Midlands. Available to play in Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Essex, Greater London, Hampshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and beyond.


Manor House Music

Tel: 07870 171194