Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella

“Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” (French: Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle) is a noël, or Christmas carol, from the Provence region of France.

In lyrics by French poet and playwright Émile Blémont (1839-1927), “Jeannette” and “Isabelle” are shepherdesses who, upon discovering the baby Jesus and his mother in a stable, run to a nearby village to tell the inhabitants, who are urged to come quietly and whisper softly, so as not to disturb the baby sleeping peacefully in a manger. In Provence today, as in previous generations, torches remain a Christmas tradition, as on Christmas Eve children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass while singing the carol.

The melody on which this arrangement is based may date to as early as the 14th century — not as a sacred song, but as a lively dance. French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) used the melody for a drinking song in a 1672 revival of a comedy by the French playwright Molière. Blémont’s sacred lyrics first appeared with this melody in Noëls français (1901), a collection of French carols transcribed and harmonized by musicologist and composer Julien Tiersot (1857-1936).

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

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