Ding Dong Merrily on High for String Quartet – ‘Ding Dong! Merrily on High’ is the third carol to feature on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first album of Christmas carols for string quartet, called ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols‚’.
When English composer George Radcliffe Woodward wrote the words to a 16th century French secular dance, one of the most enduring and well loved Christmas carols was written – ‘Ding Dong! Merrily on High’ – a carol which reflected Woodward’s interest in the ancient English tradition of church bell ringing.
This carol was chosen because it’s a jolly, upbeat tune and without it, no Christmas concert or carol disc would have been complete! It required an intricate arrangement from violinist Vaughan Jones, with all the inner parts very active to give a feeling of movement and a nice bass line in the cello part. As with all the carol arrangements, each instrument in the quartet gets an equal share of the music and melodies are passed around to keep it interesting for the players and listeners.
Towards the end of the carol a downward scale is introduced to represent the church bells mentioned in the words. Whenever an arranger is creating an instrumental version of a song, it’s always good to include a musical ‘description’ to bring the carol to life.
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: