Featured Content: William Ryden’s Jeannette, Isabella

Featured Content: William Ryden's Jeannette, Isabella

Today’s featured content is William Ryden’s beautiful concert band arrangement of the French carol Jeanette, Isabella. This grade 1 piece is particularly well suited to middle school bands.

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Jeanette, Isabella Notes from Arranger William Ryden

This lovely carol comes from the Provence region of France where it is known as “Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle” (Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella). It is believed to date from the 17th century, possibly composed by Nicholas Saboly (1614-1675).

Like many carols, it tells a story. The best-known version is the translation by Edward Cuthbert Nunn (1868-1914) which begins:

Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella!
Bring a torch to the cradle, run!
It is Jesus, good folk of the village;
Christ is born and Mary’s calling:
Ah! Ah! beautiful is the Mother
Ah! Ah! beautiful is her Son!

The custom of acting out a scene beside the cradle of Jesus goes back to the middle ages. In southern Europe, the torches, or candles, of Chanukah the Jewish Festival of Lights played an important part in Christmas celebrations.

The carol should be played simply and with forward motion, but without haste. Keep the tempo steady till the final measures and let it gradually fade out.

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