God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Like a lot players, I have ambivalent feelings about Christmas music this time of year. You enter the season with a whole new repertoire to play, which is refreshing, and much of this repertoire differs musically from the standard fare: carols and hymns, tunes in minor keys, unusual structures, quaintly archaic texts (let nothing you dismay!) and so on.
With so many weeks playing the same fare, I have a lot of time to experiment with various styles and chords. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen has always been a favorite of mine. To my ear, it lends itself to a sort of baroque treatment and also, by extension, to a jazz feel, since baroque music and jazz have so much in common.
This is an elaboration of an arrangement I wrote for an a capella group I sang with in college and shows how easily I am torn between jazz and classical approaches to a lot of this music. (I say "elaboration", though, if memory serves, there were four vocal parts and this has only three voices: flute, clarinet and bass. I think three’s enough though.)
Finally, my friend, Rune the erstwhile printer, will be happy to note that I included the comma in the title. Frequently misprinted, the title is actually direct address, as in, God keep you merry, gentlemen. Pace, Lynn Truss. And pace to the rest of you as well! Click on the title in red to hear it.
God rest ye merry, gentleman
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our saviour
Was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy.
O, tidings of comfort and joy.