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Greensleeves

(What Child is This?)

Copyright Douglas Niedt, All Rights Reserved. This Christmas music for classical guitar may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.

For my December technique tip, I always enjoy giving you a little Christmas gift. This year it is a classical guitar arrangement of that wonderful Christmas song, Greensleeves (What Child Is This?). It will be fun to learn now during the Christmas season.

This Christmas arrangement for classical guitar is based on one by Jorge Morel, one of my former teachers. It is an intermediate level arrangement (in standard notation and as a Christmas guitar tab) so I hope it won't be too much of a struggle to learn by Christmas. Unlike some easy arrangements, I think this one has some nice harmonizations.

NOTE: This is NOT the same arrangement I play on my Christmas CD, In Heavenly Peace.)

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol

Greensleeves (What Child Is This?) Traditional Words by William Dix
(Arangement for guitar by Douglas Niedt)

What Child Is This? is a Christmas song with religious lyrics set to the secular melody, Greensleeves. The text of “What Child Is This” was written by Englishman William Chatterton Dix in 1865. At the age of twenty-nine, he was stricken with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bed for many months. He suffered deep depression, and as he lay near death, often reflected on his faith. Reading his Bible and studying the work of respected theologians, Dix reaffirmed his belief in not only Christ as Savior, but in the power of God to change his own life.

Not long after regaining his strength, an inspired Dix wrote some of the greatest hymns ever written by a layman. His Christmas work, entitled The Manger Throne, quickly emerged as his most memorable opus. Dix’s inspired words are recognized as some of the most concise and effective ever used in a hymn. The poem was used in church services and printed in magazines and newspapers in England and America. But it wasn’t until English composer and organist Sir John Stainer coupled Dix’s words with the melody “Greensleeves” that the carol became immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

The melody “Greensleeves” is impossible to date. It has appeared in many different versions with many different harmonizations, a few of which are presented here in this arrangement. It has also had many different sets of lyrics, most of which were not at all religious. One version describes the lament of a jilted lover, while others are downright bawdy. As with many other carols, the marriage of traditional music and sacred words came late. With the lyrics of William Dix, “Greensleeves” had, at last, become respectable.

Dix’s powerful words presented a unique view of the birth of Christ. While the baby was the focal point of the song, the viewpoint of the writer seemed to be that of an almost confused observer. In a stroke of brilliance, Dix imagined visitors to the humble manger wondering who the child was that lay before them. We can almost hear the question being asked from one to another as they gazed upon the child. How difficult it must have been for them to understand that the Babe who lay “in such mean estate” was truly the long-awaited Messiah. How forcefully the triumphant answer to the carol’s question bursts forth in the refrain—“This, this is Christ the King.”

Listen to me play it:

And now, The Christmas Sheet Music for Guitar of Greensleeves

Here is the free Christmas sheet music for guitar of Greensleeves.
Click this link to access the PDF. It is crystal clear and you can print it out.
It is in standard notation for classical guitar and Christmas guitar tab.

I have also included a performance/practice version with detailed notes on how to execute each measure and practice this timeless Christmas song classic.
Click this link to access the annotated PDF.
Be sure to check out the other Christmas music, free technique tips, and more on this website!




Christmas Sheet Music for Guitar. Greensleeves, annotated p1 Christmas Sheet Music for Guitar. Greensleeves, annotated p2 Christmas Sheet Music for Guitar. Greensleeves, annotated p3



Be sure to check out the other Christmas music, free technique tips, and more on this website!