Gwyneth Walker

Folk Carols for Strings

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View/download a PDF file of the score of this work. Parts available upon request.


These folk carols (songs) are known for their starkly beautiful melodies and harmonies -- simple, yet moving. In creating new string quartet adaptations, the composer has enjoyed revisiting the original tunes, exploring a few new trails of thought.

The "Cherry Tree Carol" is a ballad -- a song of many verses telling a story. This string arrangement allows for the steady flow from one verse to the next. The two opening verses are followed by a brief middle section, marked delicately, inspired by the small cherries which Mary gathers. This music grows in intensity in telling of Jesus' birth. And then, with sudden simplicity, the opening theme returns quietly as an ending.

"Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head" is a gentle lullaby with a refrain in chordal, hymn style. These refrains alternate with verses and interludes which are more rhythmic and soloistic in character. Tenderness is an essential quality throughout.

"Go Tell it on the Mountain" is an exuberant song which this arrangement balances between lively refrains and a recitative-style moments of relaxation. [!] Often the music erupts into rapid patterns of boisterous energy.

The opening lyrics for this last song are I wonder as I wander, out under the sky. And it is this image of a solitary soul out walking at night beneath the stars that inspires this arrangement. Intervallic leaps in the high range of the upper strings are marked as stars. These stars dance lightly above the melody (high range of the Cello). A delicate, solo middle section allow the stars to sparkle above a gentle earth underpinning. The sky fills with stars, and then the music quiets to the end. One lone star shines.

Notes by the composer