Last year around this time, we posted a pair of Christmas songs played by the fine England-born, Germany-based guitarist Rossini Hayward. Well, he’s back with another holiday offering, which I am pleased to share with all of you! The beloved 16th century Coventry Carol was, Wikipedia helpfully tells us, inspired by one of the darker episodes in the Bible—”the Massacre of the Innocents, in which King Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. [The song] takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.” Yikes! I kind of wish I hadn’t read that. Well, whatever the lyric context, it’s still one of the most beautiful melodies I know.
Here’s what Rossini told us a couple of weeks ago: “I am just coming to the end of arranging a set of 18 international Christmas carols for solo guitar, which will be published next year by UT Orpheus. I plan to record a CD of the arrangements next year, in time for a Christmas 2020 release. The CD will be primarily a solo guitar CD, though I will add a degree of overdubbing on some of the tracks, with the constraint that all sounds must be produced by either me or my guitar! As you can see, with Coventry Carol I have added quite a few layers over the original solo voice, which is played throughout the piece and is a pretty exact transcription of the 1591 manuscript by Thomas Mawdyke.”
Indeed, with a healthy dash of both audio and visual legerdemain, this Coventry Carol evolves into a piece performed by four Rossini Haywards! It’s both lovely and imaginative. —Blair Jackson