Shakespeare’s Carol for String Quartet – The Manor House String Quartet‘s second CD of Christmas carols for string quartet (entitled ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear and other carols’) included a few rewarding rarities. The intriguingly named ‘Shakespeare’s Carol’ by the 18th century English composer Thomas Arne (1710 – 1778) is one such curiosity, being one¬†of the songs written by Arne as incidental music for the Shakespeare play ‘As You Like It’. Like his other famous songs ‘Rule Britannia’ (from ‘The Masque of Althred’) and ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ (also from ‘As You Like It’) it is characterised by an extensive melody which is nonetheless made up of short phrases. It’s a distinctive tune which also has a faintly patriotic feel to it, yet the words are more concerned with inclement weather: ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind – Thou art not so unkind, As man’s ingratitude’.
The arrangement on this disc by violinist Vaughan Jones remains faithful to the original and has two verses (you can listen to a sample of it by clicking on the link ‘It Came Upon The Midnight Clear’ above). It’s inclusion (amongst better known carols) will hopefully help it to be appreciated as a worthy Christmas carol in it’s own right!
You can also purchase the sheet music of Vaughan’s arrangement for the combinations of string quartet and string orchestra here: