Wind Music

The Carman’s Whistle

William Byrd

arranged by Tony Turrill for woodwind octet


for excerpts click here




 a complete performance here



The Carman's Whistle" is the title of a popular song from the Tudor era. In the 16th century, a Carman was roughly what  we would call a carter, a man with various sorts of horses and carriages for hire. The Worshipful Company of Carmen were known for their habit of whistling, which apparently helped them manage their horses; “The Carman’s Whistle” is reputed to be one of their favourite melodies. Bawdy lyrics have survived – leaving out the more suggestive verses the song is basically about a Carman who 

“At length he spied a fair maid Under a myrtle tree.”

It concludes

“When he had played unto her

One merry note or two,

Then was she so rejoiced

She knew not what to do;

'Oh, God a mercy, carman,

Thou art a lively lad;

Thou hast as rare a whistle

As ever carman had!'

The renaissance English composer William Byrd (1543-1623) wrote a set of variations on the theme of the Carman's Whistle.  It survives in a collection of his works for the virginal, My Ladye Nevells Booke, that is dated 1591and it was one of his most popular works.  The original Booke is still in the possession of the Nevell family and in 1926 Hilda Andrews produced a version in modern notation that was used for the production of this setting for woodwind quartet.  

The virginal score for woodwind has been adjusted  here and there to take advantage of the instruments and provide each with sufficient  interest. 

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make a note of the  ref. no. NM2141; used with the composer and title it will help identify the work  or

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