A Virgin Most Pure

“A Virgin Most Pure” is an English traditional carol, first published in 1661, 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). Gilbert’s volume was one of the first collections of carols published in England’s Victorian era, and it contributed to the reclamation of Christmas celebrations that had long been subdued since their cultural suppression by the Puritans and their abolition by Parliament in 1647. (The law was repealed with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.) The first verse and refrain are:

“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.

Score, parts (Bb tpt. 1, Bb tpt. 2, F horn, tbn, tuba) — $12.99

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