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We will be adding more tablature arrangements regularly... please visit again.


December 2006 - 2 songs:



Brightest and Best

(Star of the East)







Music: Traditional American (1835)

Lyrics: Reginald Heber (1811)

Arranged & 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 “Southern Harmony”


            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: www.doofusmusic.com - 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).




Historical links:






We found two different sound clips of Jean Ritchie singing this song at:



Scroll down to the first song under "Listen to Samples".



On this page, click on #6 - this is from one of Jean's very early albums; 

the 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



Coventry Carol

(Lullay, Lully)






Anonymous: English (16th century)

Arr: John Sackenheim



            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.




It would 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.


We thank John for submitting this selection and hope it will be enjoyed by our readers.





Historical Link:





            Music files for download:      








  Click to go to the TablEdit website and download their free demo version

If you do not have the Tabledit program, please click on the TablEdit banner to download a free .tef reader program.  It includes the ability to play this song at a slower speed (great for learning). TablEdit is a program for creating, editing, printing and listening to tablature and sheet music (standard notation) for fretted, stringed instruments.

  Click here to download a free version of Adobe Reader

Adobe® Reader® is a free software for viewing and printing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

  Our PDF music files are produced from music created with Finale® notation software.


Our .MIDI music files are produced by TablEdit notation software.





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