There Were Three Ravens Sat On a Tree in five different keys! Am, Gm, Fm, Em, Dm... there is a key to suit everyone.
This is a melancholy tune, with melancholy lyrics! But beautiful nonetheless. It tells the story of a slain knight, surrounded by those loyal to him.
Please scroll down the page for the links to the free printable music.
And who are those loyal ones? His hawks, his hounds, and a fallow doe - which I believe represents his leman (his mistress or lover -poetry of this time rarely spoke of husbands and wives).
Listen to this very beautiful rendering of this music in the video below. A male voice starts, then two, then female singers as well. This is the Lumina Vocal Ensemble:
With careful listening, you will notice that the version sung in the video above uses a raised sixth step, giving it a very fresh sound - or archaic, depending on your point of view!
I like the sound very much, but did not put those altered notes into my music. They would be easy to change...
Additionally, the fifth above or below the tonic is possible for the pickup notes that occur in measure 7, and even the very first note.
I have placed all the lyrics on page two because I wanted to transpose this song into five different keys, and I knew from experience that it would take MUCH extra time to place the words beneath the notes!
I believe this song takes an intelligent singer.
As the lyrics are not going to start with the pickup note in the same way each time, the vocalist has to anticipate the words and the correct syllabic emphasis.
Either that, or mimic very well as the instructor (or video) makes it obvious where to place the syllables!
A closeup look at page one, in G minor:
Compare the range of the key of Gm, above, with Dm, below:
Regarding the Three Ravens lyrics, my arrangement shortens them up CONSIDERABLY by avoiding repeating the first line over and over. Modern ears (and lack of patience) persuaded me to cut the repetition.
But the singers in the video above are singing the LONG version, which I assume is the original way to sing it, back when minstrels and musicians were very highly prized and doted on.
With little other entertainment to compete, it was surely wonderful to hear the musicians sing on and on.
And then, the lyrics would look like this:
There were three Ravens sat on a tree, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe. There were three Ravens sat on a tree, with a downe. There were three Ravens sat on a tree, They were as blacke as blacke could be With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.
Then one of them said to his mate, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe. Then one of them said to his mate, with a downe. Then one of them said to his mate, O, Where shall we our breakefast take? With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.
Downe in yonder greene field, Downe a downe, hey downe, hey downe. Downe in yonder greene field, with a downe. Downe in yonder greene field, There lies a Knight slain 'neath his shield. With a downe derrie, derry, derry, downe, downe.