Greensleeves, Op. 2b

for Wind Ensemble or Concert Band (3.2.5.2.4, 3.4.3.1.1, T+3)

Opus 2b, 2010, rev. 2021

Grade 3-4

Duration: 4m

To be recorded by John Zastoupil and the Missouri State University Wind Ensemble

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  • Greensleeves -CB- - Full score - 01 Greensleeves
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PDF Perusal Score

The melody of Greensleeves was known as a popular English folksong about unrequited love long before its use as the melody for the Christmas hymn, “What Child Is This?” It dates back to at least c. 1580, where it is first found in published form in William Ballet's lute book.

I originally wrote this setting for British brass band in 2002. In 2010 I adapted the work for wind band, which I feel adds a lot to its color and character. After completing my long-delayed M.M. in Composition in 2021, I revisited this work, revising it based on everything I had learned in the intervening years, and to accommodate my 2021 tastes and preferences. Most of the revisions were in the orchestration, but I did tweak the ending a bit for more "punch."

Like most composers, I find it challenging writing for such a nebulous concept of "band" as opposed to "wind ensemble," where I know that exactly one player will cover each part. For that reason, I treated the orchestration of this work (as all of my works for band) as if I were writing for a one-to-a-part wind ensemble. I leave it to the conductor to decide where it is appropriate to have just one player versus the entire section. For example, the conductor may want one player to a part for the first few phrases, then have the entire band join in at, say, bar 44.

My goal in writing this arrangement was to present a fresh perspective of an oft-heard melody, and continually keeping it fresh with different textures, key centers, and countermelodies. The work begins very softly, with a short introductory fanfare in the horns and muted trumpets. This motive later becomes an important accompaniment part during the final iterations of the chorus. At first, the texture is very thin and delicate. But gradually, more and more parts are added, leading up to the big rousing coda at the end. The effect is one giant, 4-minute crescendo.