A Virgin Most Pure (English carol) — brass quintet

A venerable English carol, “A Virgin Most Pure” features a sprightly tune in Mixolydian mode and 3/4 time. This hearty arrangement for brass quintet by Todd Marchand is fun to play, well-received by listeners, and an ideal addition to any program of carols.


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“A Virgin Most Pure” is an English traditional carol that appeared in Davies Gilbert’s A Collection of Ancient Christmas Carols, with the Tunes to which they were formerly sung in the West of England (London, 1822). The first verse and refrain are as follows:

“A virgin most pure, as the prophets do tell, / Hath brought forth a baby, as it hath befell; / To be our Redeemer from death, hell, and sin, / Which Adam’s transgression had wrapped us in.

“[Refrain] Aye, and therefore be merry; / Rejoice, and be you merry; / Set sorrow aside; / Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this tide.”

The tune is built upon the Mixolydian scale (seventh mode), having the same sequence of tones and semitones as a major scale but with a lowered seventh degree. In this arrangement, the occasional addition of the flat seventh to the tonic chord and its use as a leading tone in some harmonic progressions emphasizes the modal quality of the tune.

©Copyright 2013 Todd Marchand / Con Spirito Music

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