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Sheet Music: The Coventry Carol

TitleThe Coventry Carol
ComposerTraditional English
 
InstrumentationFlute quartet
KeyG minor
RangeC4–D6
Time signature3/4
Tempo96 BPM
Performance time0:55
Difficulty leveleasy
Download printable scorePDF Sheet Music (46 kB) (preview)
Download audio tracksMIDI (2 kB) (change tempo) MP3 (655 kB)
Play-along accompanimentMIDI (1 kB) (change tempo) MP3 (678 kB)
Date added2009-11-30
Last updated2009-11-30
CategoriesChristmas carols, Hymn tunes, Traditional/Folk

Performances

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Monday 30 November 2009

Tune of the Day: The Coventry Carol

Traditional English Christmas carol

This Christmas carol dates from the 16th Century. It was originally performed in the English city of Coventry as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, which depicted the Christmas story as described in the Gospel of Matthew. The Coventry Carol, which is the only carol that has survived from this play, refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod orders all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. That's why the lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother's lament for her doomed child.

The carol is notable as a well-known example of a Picardy third (aka tierce de Picardie). This harmonic device consists in using a major chord of the tonic to conclude a minor-mode phrase. In other words, despite this tune being in G minor, it ends on a G major chord, with a B-natural instead of a B-flat.

This carol is traditionally sung a cappella, that is, without instrumental accompaniment. Thus, it makes a perfect piece for a flute ensemble.