Away In A Manger for String Quartet – ‘Away In A Manger’ is the 10th track on the first album of string quartet Christmas carols by the Manor House String Quartet, called ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’. It seems to have stemmed from the 400th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth. As a possible piece of publicity, some claimed that Martin Luther himself had written ‘Away in a Manger’ as a lullaby for his own children but it seems that the carol dates from around 1883. Away in a Manger has had many claims to authorship with W.J Kirkpatrick becoming established as the composer of the melody.
When it came to arranging this Christmas carol for string quartet, violinist Vaughan Jones wanted to keep it simple, full, yet with a gentle feel so I started the piece with an original counter-melody whose suspended harmonies bring out the yearning quality of the tune. What ensues are a couple of playful variations that would not be out of place in a Haydn string quartet. The whole thing is finished off with the return of the counter melody in a higher register.
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: