No one knows who composed this piece or wrote the words. When it is first seen in print, it is described as being one of the most popular of carols sung, meaning that it had been in common use for several years. Charles Dickens used the words in his famous short story A Christmas Carol, and the first extant printing of the familiar melody (called the “London” melody) used parody lyrics, which meant that the original was surely familiar to anyone who heard it.
This classic “King James” reharmonization includes a written jazz solo with chords included so more advanced students can try their hand at a different solo than the blues-scale-based solo written in. This is a bouncy, happy piece, in keeping with the meaning of the original words: “God give you joy, my gentle friends.” It’s great for any Christmas party, or holiday gig.
Key: E minor
Mood: jolly, cheerful, merry
Pedagogy: swing rhythm, solos, extended jazz chords, walking bass.