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It’s christmas. Have a christmas carol for your ballet class on me.

Chocolate mousse. Today's lunchtime great and mighty wonder.
Chocolate mousse. Today’s lunchtime great and mighty wonder.

To download the song, either right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) the player above and select ‘save audio as’, or right-click (Mac: ctrl+click) this link and select ‘save link as‘.

The German title of the tune for this is Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, and it’s gloriously old and strange in metre. I’ve ironed it out a bit, so that you at least get 4  phrases which are in six – the real tune goes a bit more all over the place than this. If you want to pin it down to something in terms of a dance rhythm, it’s a cross between a polonaise and a baroque hornpipe, with a little 2/4 in the middle on the line “Repeat the hymn again”.

The tune was harmonised by Praetorius (there’s a link to a file in mensural notation from IMSLP here). Praetorius’s version is quite definitely ‘in 2’, though though the editors of Ancient & Modern (2013)  have restructured it in 3, as a means of making sense of the cross-phrasing (or whatever you should call it) in the middle.  It’s songs like this that make you realise that being ‘in 2’ or ‘in 3’ is a very woolly and remote concept as soon as you get away from dance music of the last couple of centuries, though there is something very dance-like about this tune.  I am very tempted to redo it in 2 after all, except I don’t have time.

Although my arrangement is just a bit of pastiche renaissancery, I do love the excitement of this kind of sound, and the strangely logical irregularity of its rhythms. That love is due entirely to the work of David Munrow, who people who were around in the 70s will remember as the person who enthused an entire generation with early music. We loved him and his music-making, and the novelty of it all. What a legacy to have achieved in about a decade. At the height of his success, very young, he committed suicide, which left us all in shock. Whether we knew him or not, we felt like we did.

I don’t know how popular this hymn is any more for actual singing, but the tune is well known. I’m including it because jumpy things that are in six have a pleasing form to them that I’ve written about in another post about sixy things, which happens to be one of my favourite posts ever on my own blog, though I say it myself.


2 thought on “A christmas carol ballet class day #22: Jumpy thing in 3, A Great and Mighty Wonder”
    1. As I understand the history, Praetorius arranged it, but the tune is older (Praetorius is actually referenced in my ID3 tags in the MP3 file, but they don’t show up unless you download and play in something like iTunes). There’s a nice score on IMSLP which I’m going to link to.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist