It Came Upon the Midnight Clear for String Quartet – The fourth carol on the Manor House String Quartet‘s second CD of Christmas Carols ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and other carols’ is the title track itself (you can click on the link to hear a sample of us playing it). The words of this carol were written in 1849 by the Unitarian minister Edmund Sears from Massachusetts and these words spawned two separate melodies. In the United States it is widely known set to a tune called ‘Carol’ written in 1850 by Richard Storrs Willis which is in 6/8 time and has the quality of a lullaby. In England it is better known by the tune ‘Noel’ which Arthur Sullivan arranged in 1874 and this is the version used on¬†our disc.
It is a peaceful melody that evokes a starry sky and the arranger Vaughan Jones was careful to try to bring out it’s radiance allowing the sonority of the string quartet to illuminate the harmonies. The first and second halves of the melody are given contrast between a legato feel and a slightly more articulated one, but apart from this the melody is allowed to emerge without much embellishment …and a lovely melody it is too!
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: