Coventry Fantasia for Flute Alone by Richard Arnest
The” Coventry Carol” is one of the favorite British Carols. Taken from one of the Coventry Mystery Plays, the Shearmen and Tailor’s Pageant, a nativity play portraying events from the Annunciation to the Massacre of the Innocents, it’s roots can be traced to 1392-93. Robert Croo revised the pageants in 1534 and they were suppressed in 1579, apparently for an excess of Catholicism. This music was originally in three parts, with verses of different lengths from those commonly heard today in the common 4-part setting. This fantasia is based on a 1591 manuscript as transcribed in 1817. All this shows that the passage of time works strange effects on music. If the setting sounds unfamiliar, part of the reason lies in the earlier version of the carol and part in the contemporary setting. It should be fun to play.
The carol describes the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod, one of the most savage acts in the New Testament. Another sobering event associated with Coventry is the bombing that destroyed the Cathedral on the night of November 15, 1940, killing over 550 people and destroying the city center. These two thoughts, together with the somber nature of the carol and the unquiet life surrounding the Pandemic of 2020 are reflected here.