2006 - 2 songs:
BRIGHTEST AND BEST and COVENTRY CAROL
Brightest and Best
(Star of the East)
Traditional American (1835)
Reginald Heber (1811)
& Chorded: Elizabeth DiPietri
Readers familiar with the Christmas hymn Brightest
and Best may be surprised to learn how many
different versions exist.
For one thing there are at least six different
musical compositions, two of which are equally popular.
One is in a major key, written by James P. Harding
(1892), and is called Morning Star. The second is
in a minor key, and first appeared anonymously as Star
in the East in an 1835 issue of the publication
Matters first began when Reginald Heber
(1738-1826) wrote a hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany,
published in 1811 in the Christian Observer. The
verses describe the significance of the birth of Christ.
These are the lyrics that are best remembered.
The version selected by Elizabeth is one using
Heber’s lyrics, set to the music of Star in the
East. Although it is listed as an “American
Folk” Hymn”, we do know much of its origins. In her
initial attempts at arranging this music, Elizabeth
worked from a score for voice and piano. This resulted
in chord forms that were dissonant and undefinable. It
was later found that a more authentic, earlier version
appeared as a shape-note, choral arrangement in the
publication Christian Harmony.
Here the music is found to consist of
counter-melodies sung in combinations to form changing
harmonies, sometimes dissonant, rather than as
traditional chord sounds. The arrangement given here
reproduces the original melody with interpretive
chording playable on the dulcimer. Much of the harmony
retains the primitive sounds of the shape-note music.
Doofus (Neal & Coleen Walters/John & Heidi Cerrigione) has a lovely arrangement (in D-A-d tuning) posted on their site:
- on the Tablature page. This is yet another tune, as
performed by Jean Ritchie on mountain dulcimer.
The tempo for this music is rather slow, allowing
for easy playing. The melody is not complicated but some
of the chord forms are unusual and will require some
practice in fingering.. This arrangement and the one
that follows, Coventry
Carol, are good examples of the versatility of 1-3-5 tunings for playing
minor key music (in spite of the abundance of major
“barre” chords across the fretboard).
two different sound clips of Jean Ritchie singing this
down to the first song under "Listen to
page, click on #6 - this is from one of Jean's very
first link sounds more recent.
Music files for download:
Brightest & Best.pdf
Brightest and Best.tef
(please let us know if there are problems with this
file; I have received one such report.)
Brightest and Best.mid
English (16th century)
Music scholars classify the Coventry Carol
as Renaissance music with roots in medieval Europe.
Originally, the refrain was entitled Lullay, Lully,
sung during the 15th century Pageant of
Shearmen and Tailors, performed in Coventry, England and
depicting Herod’s slaughter of innocent children as
recorded in the Bible. It is conceded that the song is
not strictly a carol, since it refers to an event that
occurred after the birth of Jesus; however, it has been
sung as a carol over a period of many centuries.
Space does not permit a review of the various
lyrics and versions of this music, but those interested
in its history may
either log on to the link shown below or simply do an
Internet search using the title.
be difficult to arrange this music in the manner in
which it was originally heard, sung, and played. Even
during the early Renaissance period in Europe, the old
untempered musical scales (Just and Pythagorean) were
still in use. Arrangers today work with the
equal-temperament scale, and chords for harmony, rather
than drones. John’s arrangement is intended to suggest
the sound of this music as it might be played on a
cathedral organ (or dulcimer), using today’s
equal-temperament scale and chord support. Players may
feel free to experiment as their styles may lead them.
John for submitting this selection and hope it will be
enjoyed by our readers.
Music files for download: