Coventry Carol for String Quartet – The 13th track on the Manor House String Quartet‘s first disc of string quartet Christmas carols, entitled ‘I Saw Three Ships and other carols’ is the mournful ‘Coventry Carol’. You can here a sample of violinist Vaughan Jones‘s arrangement by following the above link. It’s named after the manuscript from the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors of Coventry where it was first recorded in 1591. The tragic words are a song being sung to a little child on the day Herod chose to slaughter the innocent children.
The arrangement for string quartet starts off with an introduction which explores many keys before introducing the melody rather like a processional. The tune of the carol is a lament – with the harmonies hopefully reflecting the late 16th century origins. It logically follows the preceding track Personent Hodie which also has ancient roots. The stately feel of the melody grows in intensity before eventually resolving in a celebratory G major chord.
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: