Douglas Niedt

Guitar Technique Tip of the Month

Your Personal Guitar Lesson

Since Christmas is right around the corner, this month's technique tip is a very nice arrangement of the carol Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella. I have included four versions of the score, some background information on the carol, and a video of me playing it. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

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By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella (Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle in French) was originally not a song to be sung at Christmas, but rather dance music for French nobility. Fourteenth-century French socials often included the ritournelle, a lively court dance. The melody used for Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella is one such ritournelle melody. It is believed to have originated in the 16th century in the Provence region of France. The lyrics are said to have originated in either Anjou or Burgundy. They were paired with the melody and first published in 1553 by a wealthy nobleman in Cantiques de Premiere Advenement de Jesus-Christ. The carol was subsequently translated into English in the 18th century.

The carol tells the story of two milkmaids, Jeanette and Isabella, who went to a stable in Bethlehem to milk the cows only to find the baby Jesus sleeping in the hay. They were so filled with excitement that they took their torches and ran to the village to spread the news of the newborn Christ child. The townspeople came with their own torches to view the sight for themselves. However, they had to keep their voices down so little Jesus could enjoy his dreams. To this day in the Provence region, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to church on Christmas Eve while singing the carol.


Be sure to watch the video on full screen. Click the symbol to the right of "HD" in the lower right-hand corner after the video begins playing. Hit escape "ESC" on your keyboard to return to normal viewing.

If you would like, you may download the video. This takes you to the Vimeo Review Page. In the upper right corner click on the downward-pointing arrow. Click on the size/quality file you want.


The music package includes:

  • Background essay about the carol

  • Notation Key

  • Score in standard notation and tab

  • Score in standard notation only. Three pages fit nicely on a music stand.

  • Annotated score in standard notation and tab. Contains instructions to help you play the carol.

  • Annotated score in standard notation.

Download the package here


Download the Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella music package here. The download is from Dropbox. You do not need a Dropbox account to download the file.