Greensleeves (or, What Child Is This?) is a lively Brass Quintet arrangement of the traditional English folk song and Christmas carol.


Brass Quintet – Single Movement (2:15 performance time)

Greensleeves for Brass Quintet sets the familiar piece at a lively waltz tempo and plays on a contrast between bright fanfares and smooth, dark lyricism. In the second half, melody and counterpoint is passed around the group, giving each player a moment to shine as momentum builds into the final chorus.

(Not yet graded for difficulty.)


Bb Trumpet 1
Bb Trumpet 2
F Horn
Trombone (or Baritone)

Program Notes

Greensleeves is a traditional folk song of Elizabethan England, built on popular Spanish and Italian Renaissance chord progressions that made their way to England in the mid-16th century.

The earliest known lyrics, recorded in 1580 as “A new Northern Dittye of the Lady Green-Sleeves,” tell the story of a jilted lover:
“Alas, my love, you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously;
And I have lovèd you so long,
Delighting in your company.
Greensleeves was all my joy,
Greensleeves was my delight;
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.”

(According to legend, Henry VIII wrote these words for Anne Boleyn, but there’s little evidence of that.)

The popular melody was soon sung with many different lyrics, from romantic ballads to political taunts. As William Chappell wrote in The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time (1859), “There is scarcely a collection of old English songs in which at least one may not be found to the tune of Green Sleeves.”

By the mid-17th century, the tune had begun to be associated with lyrics celebrating New Year’s:
“The old year now away is fled,
The new year it is entered;
Then let us now our sins down tread,
And joyfully all appear.”

The Christmas lyrics we’re familiar with today are by William Chatterton Dix, written in 1865 and published in 1871:
“What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?”

This lively brass quintet arrangement was written for members of the Williamson County Symphony Orchestra. Listen for the contrast between bright fanfares and smooth, dark lyricism, and for a gradual build in the second half that gives each player a moment to shine.

Conor Brace (born 1983) is a composer and trumpet player from Austin, Texas.

Download the FREE, ready-to-print sheet music below. You can print as many copies as necessary for your group, and perform the piece in any not-for-profit setting.

In return, all I ask is that you send me a recording of your rehearsal or performance!

Download package includes:
– Score (PDF – 8.5″x11″)
– Parts (PDF – 8.5″x11″)