Wednesday, August 12, 2020

2020-2121 Folk Song List for Term 2

Term 2
The Cruel War
The Alberta Homesteader or Starving to Death on My Government Claim 
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

  The Cruel War 

 This song is often called a traditional American tune from the time of the Civil War, but it's not originally American and we have the wrong Civil War.  The original war which birthed this song is likely one of The English Civil Wars,  200 years before the American one.  It was refurbished and put to use during the American Civil War and then was modernized by Peter, Paul, and Mary. This is the Peter, Paul, and Mary version.
The Cruel War is raging, Johnny has to fight. 
I want to be with him from morning to night .
I want to be with him, it grieves my heart so. 
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.

Tomorrow is Sunday,
Monday is the day 
That your Captain will call you and you must obey.
Your captain will call you it grieves my heart so.
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.

I'll tie back my hair, men's clothing I'll put on,
I'll pass as your comrade, as we march along.
I'll pass as your comrade, no one will ever know.
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.  

Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, I fear you are unkind.
 I love you far better than all of mankind.
 I love you far better than words can e'er express.
 Won't you let me go with you?
 Yes, my love, yes... Yes, My Love, Yes 

Some versions add this heart-wrenching verse:

They marched into battle, she never left his side 
'Til a bullet shell struck her and love was denied 
A bullet shell struck her, tears came to Johnny's eyes 
As he knelt down beside her, she silently died. 

 Peter, Paul and Mary version from Amazon: 
Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, etc, from Amazon:

  The Alberta Homesteader 
Alberta is a province in Canada.  In order to get the land settled by farmers and worked as active farms, contributing to the food supply and establishing settled communities, the governments of both Canada and the US offered free land in exchange for filling certain conditions- filing claims, building a structure that could be called a house, and farming a set amount of land.  It was a hard life, but at the same time it was an opportunity for poor people who otherwise never would have a chance to own their own homes to gain land.  Many failed, as you had to have a lot of grit, resilience, stamina, strength, and luck to succeed.  

This is a comical, satirical song about the experience. 

You can purchase this rendition by Alan Mills at Amazon, or listen to it as part of your monthly music unlimited plan- I can't call it free since you pay a monthly fee for that. Youtube:
'According to Hoyle' means according to the rules.  The house could be a soddy, a hole in the ground with a roof (dug-outs, essentially). It had to meet gov't specifications, but those specifications were pretty meagre in terms of resulting in a thing of beauty or a joy forever.

 The Alberta Homesteader
1.  My name is Dan Gold, an old bachelor I am
    I'm keeping old batch on an elegant plan
    You'll find me out here on Alberta's bush plain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.

2.  So come to Alberta, there's room for you all,
    Where the wind never ceases, [and] the rain always falls
    Where the sun always sets and there it remains
    Till you [we] get frozen out of your [our] government claim.

3.  My house it is built of the natural soil
    The walls are erected according to Hoyle
    The roof has no pitch, it is level and plain
    And I always get wet when it happens to rain.

4.  My clothes they are [are all] ragged, my language is rough
    My bread is case-hardened and solid and tough
    My dishes are scattered all over the room
    And [] my floor is [gets] afraid of the sight of a broom.

5.  How happy I am [feel] when I roll into bed
    The rattlesnake rattles a tune at my head
    And [] the little mosquito, devoid of all fear
    Crawls over my face and into my ear.

6.  The little bed-bug, so cheerful and bright,
    He [It] keeps me up laughing two-thirds of the night
    And the smart little flea with the [] tacks in his toes
    Crawls up through my whiskers and tickles my nose.

7.  You may try to raise wheat, you may try to raise rye
    You may stay there and live, you may stay there and die
    But as for myself, I'll no longer remain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.

8.  So farewell to Alberta, farewell to the west
    It's backwards I'll go to the girl I love best
    I'll go back to the east and get me a wife
    And never eat cornbread the rest of my life.

Various scores and notations are available here, which is the source for the above lyrics as well:;ttIRISHWSH.html  

There's also an American version sometimes called Greer County Bachelor, or Starving to Death on my Government Claim. It's essentially the same, with a few words changes here and there. I included some of those renditions in the youtube playlist.

Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Sister, help to trim the sale, hallelujah
Sister, help to trim the sale, hallelujah

Jordan River is chilly and cold, hallelujah!
Chills the body but not the soul, hallelujah!

River's deep and the river's wide, hallelujah!
milk and honey on the other side.hallelujah!

If you get there before I do, hallelujah!
Tell my people I'm coming, too, hallelujah!

Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah!
Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah!

Michael, row the boat ashore, hallelujah!
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah!

The first written copy of the song is from the American Civil War period. It comes from St. Helena Island, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, Gullah country.  Southern slave owners abandoned the island, the now freed by default slaves stayed behind. Shortly after, Navy ships from the Union Army came and used the island as a base for a blockade.  One of the Union soldiers in charge was an abolitionist interested in in the musical traditions of the former slaves, and he noted it down. It continued to be a common work song of the area, there are various mentions of it over time, fishermen sang it while rowing back to shore, families sang it together while working, or of an evening while spending time together.   It was first widely popularized in the mid 20th century by The Highwaymen- you can purchase the recording from Amazon here.  Ella Jenkins and friends sing it here.

Youtube versions-

I share this for nostalgia, curiosity, and fun. It's a bit odd, but in an episode of the old Tarzan television show, Diana Ross and the Supremes don nun's habits and sing Michael, Row the Boat Ashore- you should only listen to it once you already know the song or your younger kids may be confused.  Nothing wrong with jazzing it up once you've got the basics down, tho.

It was published in 1867 in the book Slave Songs of the United States- here is one online version.  It is free in several places on the internet.

Please do remember the purpose is to *sing* the songs, not just to listen to them.  I would love to have families singing these and other folk songs together, restoring an old and revered, delightful tradition of singing together.  This tradition is as old as Creation. I know you've heard me say this before, but it just seems so significant to me.  There are illiterate cultures, and always have been people with no written language.  There are no cultures I know of, however ancient, that never sang songs.  We have lost something precious, but we can regain it, starting with you, in your home with your children.
Please sing with us, with your children.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Quote for the day: Why Education?

"Education and study, and the favours of the Muses, confer no greater benefit on those that seek them than these humanizing and civilizing lessons, which teach our natural qualities to submitted to the limitations prescribed by reason, and to avoid the wildness of extremes." Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Folksongs term 1, 2020-2021

My usual pleadings: Folksongs are for singing. Please sing.
 Folksongs, by their nature and definition shift, change, are reshaped by time and the process of being passed down. They sometimes seem to reshape themselves. Lyrics vary. If you find a version you want to listen to and the lyrics are different from those posted below, it does not matter. If you need to fix that, just fix it. Print out the lyrics and take a pen to them, cross out what you don't want, ink in the words you prefer. Or just sing your version alongside t'other one. It's okay if you sing Spanish enemy while the recording artists are singing Turkish enemy.

Suggestion: Learn just the first verse and the chorus using a recording of somebody else's performance.  Add the subsequent verses one by one, without using a recording.
Play the folksongs as background music while doing chores and see if reluctant singers don't find themselves singing along.

Scientifically- music has always been a part of human culture.  Literacy has not. To Be verbs are not part of every language. Every culture sings. Singing increases happy hormones and regulates heart rhythms and breathing. Singing together increases a sense of cooperation and bonding. Let that work for you.  Sing together and let the bonding begin. It will grease the gears of your homelife.

 Term One:
 Follow the Drinking Gourd
The Golden Vanity
Down by the Bay

 Playlist on youtube will be announced .

Follow the drinking gourd
Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man is a waiting 
for to carry you to freedom
Follow the drinking gourd

 When the sun comes up [or back]
And the first quail calls
 Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man is a waiting
For to carry you to freedom
 Follow the drinking gourd


The riverbed makes a mighty fine road
Dead trees to show you the way
And it's left foot, peg foot travelling on
Follow the drinking gourd

The river ends between two hills
Follow the drinking gourd
There's another river on the other side

Follow the drinking gourd


collected by H. B. Parks, an entomologist and amateur folklorist, in the 1910s, unpublished until 1928
 Whether this specific song was truly sung by enslaved black Americans in the 19th century is debated. Parks is the only one to have heard it and he claims to have heard it two different places.  What is not debated is that many did escape by taking the drinking gourd, the Big Dipper, the North Star as a guide. More here.

Taj Mahal sings it here (an Amazon song you can download)
Kim and Reggie Harris sing it here (.99 to download)

  The Golden Vanity

 This is a very sad sea song with a charming tune.  It is a charming tune that has vast sticking power and you won't be able to stop humming 'on the lowland, lowland low, as she sailed upon the lowland sea' at odd times for the rest of the school year, maybe longer.  I share it because I love you all so much and it makes me so happy when you write to tell me stories of your children singing it 2,000 times a day and you catch yourself humming it and cannot stop.  It is at least as old as the time of Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Drake. Imagine! You are subjected to an ear-worm that has been around since at least 1685! Doesn't it give you goosebumps?

 In some versions the enemy ship is Spanish, in some she's Turkish, because of course, it's quite adaptable to whatever enemy you happen to be at war with, including your brother in the swimming pool.

  Burl Ives version- free for Prime members, .99 for others. It's a Spanish ship here.
  Peter, Paul, and Mary version for 1.29

  The Golden Vanity
 Oh there was a lofty ship and a lofty ship was she
And the name of that ship it was the Golden Vanity
And she feared she would be taken by the Turkish Enemy
As she sailed on the lowland, lowland low
As she sailed on the lowland sea.

 Up stepped a little cabin boy, and boldly outspoke he.
And he said to the Captain, "what will you give to me
If I sneak alongside of the Turkish Enemy
And I sink her in the lowland, lowland low
And I sink her in the lowland sea?"

 "Oh, I will give you silver, and I will give you gold,
 And the hand of my daughter your bonnie bride will be,
If you'll sneak alongside of the Turkish Enemy
 And you'll sink her in the lowland, lowland, low
 And you'll sink her in the lowland sea.

 So he jumped overboard, and overboard jumped he
 And he swam alongside of the Turkish Enemy,
And with a little drilling tool he boar-ed holes three,
And he sank her in the lowland, lowland, low
He sank her in the lowland sea.

 Then quickly he swam back to the cheering of the crew
But the captain did not heed him for his promise he did rue
And he spurned his poor entreatings when loudly he did sue
And he left him in the lowland, lowland, low- He left him in the lowland sea.

Then quickly he swam around to the port side
and up unto his messmates full bitterly he cried.
Oh messmates draw me up, for I'm drifting with the tide
and I'm sinking in the lowland, lowland low,
I'm sinking in the lowland sea.

 Well, his shipmates brought him out, but on the deck he died,
And they stitched him in hammock that was so soft and wide,
And they lowered him overboard and he drifted with the tide,
And he sank into the lowland, lowland, low
He sank into the lowland sea.

 And he sank beneath the lowland, lowland, low... He sank beneath the lowland sea.

 A few versions add a couple of verses where the Captain also drowns, often haunted by the memory of the dirty trick he played on the cabin boy,  but they come from a later time period, one where we as a people felt the need to tack a moral on to the end of every song, tale, and ditty, rather spoiling the effect, in my opinion.

Or perhaps what altered was the view of a person's place in the world, an issue of democracy vs hierarchy- and the moral of the first few centuries of singing the song was that cabin boys ought to do the right thing because it is their duty, and not seek to rise above their station by receiving gold, silver, and the captain's daughter for merely performing their duty. Most sailors, btw, did not learn to swim. It was something of a superstition. So a cabin boy who could swim is rather remarkable.

 This song was also part of one of the collections used by Mason's PNEU schools, and I think I recall seeing this specific title listed in one of the Programmes. We are a bit more squeamish about these things in our own day, are we not? And yet, David had Uriah killed in an act as unjust as this one, and those in power break their promises to their underlings and see them die for it throughout history. And honestly, sometimes a tuneful, sad song is just what the heart needs to sing, even if it makes you cry.

  Down by the Bay This silly song is a palate cleanser after the tragedy of the cabin boy.

Raffi, of course (for purchase): has a kid version, and here's a version free for streaming to prime members or .99 for others.
You can sing the song straight through all together in unison.  You can also sing it as echo song, where every line is sung by one person, then echoed by the others, until you get to "Did you ever see a ....". Everybody sings that line together.

 Down by the Bay
 Where the watermelons grow
 Back to my home,
 I dare not go.
 For if I do
 My mother will say
 Did you ever see...
A goose, riding a caboose
Down by the bay?

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of variations on the second to the last line, and you can have fun creating your own.  Samples:
  the moon holding a balloon?
a whale with a polka-dot tale?
 a pig wearing a wig?
 a goose kissing a moose?
 a bear combing his hair?
a llama wearing pink pajamas?
mouse building a house?
bee sipping green tea?
Rook reading a book?
frog dancing on a log?
 Did you ever have a time when you couldn't rhyme?

 This is a song to play with. You can sing it fast or slow. You can sing it so that one person sings and the others sing an echo line. You can play with harmonizing. You can, of course, make up your own rhyming questions. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't need to mean anything. It's silly fun.  Some of your kids will find it comes naturally to drag out and really ham up the last expression of Downnnn byyyyyyyy theeeeeeeeeeeeee Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. (Guess how I know).

Based on my reading, it's probably a song soldiers made up around WWI and they used part of a Greek folk song for the tune, which is catchy, fast, easy to learn, quickly picked up.  The infinite possibility of goofy verses makes it a good song for a group on a bus or car trip to sing. It's just clean goofy fun.

If you want to hear the older Greek folk song-you can hear it here, starting at the 29 second mark:  Or here starting at 1:27: 

From what I can grasp from comments, the Greek version is a folk song about being down by the seashore and longing for the singer's true love.

My youtube playlist for the year

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Folksongs, Some Real Life Experiences

These are collected from some of our AO families:

 "...we were berrying back in the woods to put up our yearly jam preserves and after an hour, a bit of boredom was setting in. So we started singing folk songs from last year– especially the "Nice Field of Turnips" while we pointed out what we were seeing. It was fun, it helped the time pass, and it was collaborative unlike headphones (I love my music so I'm not bashing on headphones but headphones while keeping watch out for our bear is not a wise plan). I think that they were more common way back because there were lots of these types of jobs and no portable music players. And telling a story via song is easy and fun, and unlike listening to a storyteller, everyone can be in on it. But they're still fun and useful today. I'm grateful for the impetus to teach them to my family!" K.S.

 "We've noticed since learning folk songs that they turn up in our culture more than you would think. It's always fun when one of the kids points them out." L.N.

 A. L. says her family enjoys playing and singing them while cleaning house. Even the toddler joins in.

 " crew was bored in the car so they busted out in a few [folk songs] from last year too. It was fun." C. H.

 "We sang folk songs while digging a trench for a retaining wall footing this week in El Salvador this week. We were too dirty and little cell reception, so no looking up lyrics." H.W.

 " A couple months ago, we were driving through the mountains a lot later than we had intended. Dark, slow, no cell service, no we sang every folk song we knew. Over and over. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I'll never skip another." and "I had to come share another folk song story. This week we are camping and over did ourselves on a hike. It was too hot. In order to rally our spirits to get to a place where my husband could go get the truck and come back for us girls....we sang I love to go a wondering, and parts of Go get the axe (we are still learning it). It was beautiful, and because my husband works from home and sings with us most mornings, he was singing along." C.H.

 One of the things I try to share about folk songs is that they give us a sound track for life, and give children another emotional vocabulary. Here is a wonderful example of that in action:

 Regarding a 5 y.o. child, his mother shared that he "went through something this past year that was very sad and hard for him. He brought it up one day recently, and I affirmed with him that it was likely one of the hardest experiences he's faced this far in his life. He was quiet for a moment and then without a word of explanation, began to sing to himself, "You've got to walk that lonesome valley..." He then gave me a hug and left the room full of peace." A. R.

Sing.  Sing together, sing while working, playing, passing the time, driving in the car, sitting in the living room during a power outage, at a backyard BBQ, while berry picking, weed-pulling, car-washing, rocking the baby, washing the dishes, folding the clothes.  Make it an easy and natural part of your lives.  Your children deserve no less.

Friday, August 2, 2019

CM is just a lot of reading....

Narrator: Not quite.

People often ask for projects to do to supplement the reading in a Charlotte Mason education.  For the most part, this type of supplementation is not necessary.  If the students have spare time in the afternoons (or in some part of the day), they can use it to come up with their own projects.  You may need to remove the screens and let them be bored for a bit in order to give this process a bit of a nudge, but boredom is a great starter dough for creativity.

There are also plenty of non-book activities already built into Miss Mason's philosophy and practice of education. Some of the non-reading things in the curriculum include:

  • Singing folksongs 
  • Singing Hymns 
  • Drill- some sort of physical activity, exercise, sport, physical game 
  • Handicrafts- origami, cardboard sloyd, clay work, weaving, soap carving, basket making, cooking, baking, and so on. 
  • Map work 
  • Timeline, history book or century book work (you need not do all, but they are each slightly different) 
  • Picture Study 
  • Composer Study 
  • Recitation is kind of in the middle, it involves some kind of reading, but the focus is on style and saying the words clearly and with a speaking voice it is a pleausure to listen to. 
  • Narrations can be oral, written, acted, drawn set up as a scene using blocks, legos, tinker toys, toy soldiers, plastic farm animals, and more.  Here are some ideas.
  •  Nature study, nature walks, and nature journals
  • Occasional visits to museums and historical sites, with sketching (sketches here can go in their history books or timelines) 
  • Foreign Language 
  • Science experiments 
  • Some of the map and geography work is more hands on 
  • Mason also recommends some sort of service project the children can do 
  • She also recommends learning to play an instrument. 

That's off the top of my head, and two or three times I thought I was done, and then I remembered something else. You don't have to do it all every day, or even every month.  I just wanted people to see how many non-book related activities are part of a CM education.

Some children appreciate a bit of input into the curriculum, which can help when you are worried about 'too much just reading', but don't overdo it.  They need to own their education, but they don't run it, they don't decide what topics are or not necessary.  But giving them some choices here and there can be a useful way to get them invested in what they are doing.   Decision fatigue is real, and it's harder for some kids than other, so again, use the following ideas with wise eyes on your children:
Sometimes after a reading ask if your child would rather narrate orally, or set up a scene from the story using his* legos.
 Pack a picnic lunch to take on a nature walk and ask if he'd* rather help learn to make deviled eggs or cut the cheese into squares and make toothpick shiskabobs of the cheese squares and sausage slices with pickles.
For foreign language study, ask him to choose ten nouns or verbs to learn together and then practice using them all week.
 For copywork, let him choose the sentence to copy form his reading. (this is the ideal)
If he is into artistic things, see about learning calligraphy.
When doing the folk songs and hymns, find two versions on youtube and ask which he prefers.

These things should be mixed up and sprinkled throughout your school day, because the schedule should be varied. Read something and narrate, then sing something, or do copywork, or go outside. Read something and narrate by drawing a picture, then read something and narrate with a diorama, then sing a song.  Mix things up so it's not all book reading in a row. 

*or her, hers, or she, of course.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Folk Songs, some back-story

  Here is some of the backstory and supplemental information on AO and our use of folk songs for those who like that sort of thing.

Back when we first added folksongs to the AO curriculum, we only had one song per term. Although it had been done before, folksongs as part of the school curriculum was a new idea to many homeschoolers, and folksongs as part of a CM curriculum was a startling idea to others. They had not realized Miss Mason did this.

Although a Charlotte Mason education is not utilitarian by principle, still, many people wanted a utilitarian justification for including folk songs in their school day- what good will this do, why do they need to know this, and what is the purpose, that sort of thing.  The benefits of singing folk song are not utilitarian, and I personally find them so delightful that I find myself feeling inarticulate and dumb when I try to explain.  I also feel that the best way to learn the justification for singing folk songs is, well, , . just to start singing them and see what happens.  That's the hardest step for the reluctant parents who want convincing, but it's the most effective.

So we started with one folk song per term. Over time, many of our people, mostly those who tried them, quickly began to enjoy the folk songs and see the value in singing them.  They wanted more.So
we were able to add more than one song per term, which makes me very happy.

Btw, iust in case you have tried the folksongs in AO's line up and didn't find they resonated with you, don't give up.  There are thousands and thousands of folk songs from just as many traditions, cultures, and peoples.  There must be one that works for you and your family, because this singing of folk songs is a deeply human endeavor. There are illiterate cultures.  There are no cultures I have heard of with no music.  So look around and find some older, music of the people tradition that *does* speak to your children.  One more bit of freeby advice- don't decide too quickly *for* your children.  Unless there is a serious, well informed moral reason to object to a song, keep your opinions in check, engage cheerfully, and let the children develop their own tastes without relying on you to be their only curator for their relationship to folksongs.

 We originally started by relying on midi files, but in my defense, youtube didn't really start until a couple of years later.  Along the way as we improve and broaden our folksong selections, we hear more and more from families who are amazed at how much they add to their school days and family life in general.  Of course, there continue to be those  who don't see the benefit and aren't interested in just trying it out, and I remain inarticulate enough in this baffling (to me) recalitrance that I am unable to persuade those families that they are truly missing something special, a playful, happy part of the day as practical as a baby's laugh, but nearly as much of a blessing.  And so they continue to miss out, and I feel guilty about my inadequacies and a bit sad.

 There were once more than a few who liked the songs  well enough but were not convinced that Mason thought folk songs were of much importance (You might be surprised if I named names!) or doubted that she even used them in her schools.

 There is some evidence within the six volumes if you know what to look for, and more in her programmes and schedules. But the clearest evidence of all is found in a little journal nicknamed 'the plant' by those who edited, published, and subscribed to it.

 Charlotte Mason started a little college where she trained young women in her principles, equipping them to become teachers and governesses- and mothers! The school was called The House of Education.
 "In 1895, the House of Education Old Students' Association was formed to provide current and "old" students who were scattered abroad, opportunities to keep in touch and provide mutual support. In 1896 they began publishing the magazine, L'Umile Pianta, named after a plant growing near Ambleside, which Charlotte Mason admired for its ability to bend without breaking. This plant was also pictured on the House of Education's medal, with the motto "For the Children's Sake." The motto was used as the subtitle for the magazine. From 1896 to 1900 it was published twice each year; from 1901-1906 it came out three times per year and from 1907 onwards it was a quarterly. Issues were bound without covers or title pages." 
From the   Charlotte Mason Digital Archives at

 In  the September, 1911 edition of 'the plant', there is an article on folk music for children, where we read:
 "Some Excellent collections [of folk songs] are now published, but quite the best is a book by Rev. Baring Gould, who has collected the words of the songs in going through the country and getting the old people to sing to him the songs passed down from father to son. The music to these has been composed by M. Cecil Sharp, who has harmonised the exact melodies used by the people."

 That book is Folk Songs for Children or Schools, by Baring Gould, online here.
I have a playlist on youtube where I have been collecting recordings of the songs from this book, although I cannot guarantee that each of these is using precisely the same lyrics as Baring Gould did. He and Sharp sometimes tidied up their lyrics.

 There are several other L'Umile Pianta volumes that mention the use of folk songs and even suggest resources. I particularly like this one because the author not only recommends the Baring Gold volume and a handful of other folk song anthologies, she also recommends a few specific individual folk-songs, such as The Three Tailors (said by the author to be 'a charming song'), Strawberry Fair, The Three Wagoneers, the Three Sons, and Oh, No John.  I like looking at specific practices and recommendations because it helps me extrapolate some principles, but we do have to be careful not to mistake practice for principles.

 Since the author referred to the Three Tailors as a charming song, I especially wanted to know more about it. I found that Eugene Field worked it into a poem of his own. You can read it here. There is an old version sung here.

 The gist of the ballad is that three wine loving tailors try to trick a landlord into giving them free wine in exchange for magic tricks they do with a needle, but they aren't real tricks, and he sees through them and rewards them with a thimble full of wine and tells them to get drunk on that. Put out at their trick being used against them, they nail his ears to the door and ride away. (!)

 We're not doing that song in AO.
I personally wouldn't mind it so much.  I have a warped sense of humour and I like the macabre but I don't create the Folk Song line up for my own gratification and pleasure.  I try to keep in mind that we have thousands of others using our playlist. every year I think I've cleared the songs enough to suit everybody and every year I discover I missed something or somebody else has misunderstood something, or I am just am reminded anew that we can't please everybody all the time, and we each have to make decisions for our own families. But I try to consider how others might see these songs when making decisions.  It didn't take any thinking about it at all to recognize that a song about  3 rascals nailing the landlord's ears to the door because he won't let them get drunk for free and then stealing his wine and  riding off scot-free doesn't seem like a song the majority of our families would prefer to have their little ones sing.  Yet, remember, this is a song the author of the L'umile Pianta article described as a charming song!

 It's entirely possible that the version the L'umile Pianta author recommended as a charming song is different in some way. Or, since readership of L'Umile Pianta was a small and close-knit group, perhaps everybody knew the lyrics already, and they also knew the author of the article and it was an inside joke and she was being facetious. We can only know so much from merely reading these old archives, and must speculate to fill in the gaps.  Nothing wrong with a little bit of speculative filling in of gaps, so long as we speculate with humility and honestly and do not ever impose our speculations on others as authoritative statements of How Things Are You Silly Women Who Do Not Do As I Say.  (please giggle, just a little?)

 Another specific song recommend is Strawberry Fair, and the Baring Gold version is quite sweet:

 1 As I was going to Strawberry Fair,
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies, I met a maiden taking her ware,
Fol-de-dee! Her eyes were blue and golden her hair, As she went on to Strawberry Fair, Ri-fol, Ri-fol, Tol-de-riddle-li-do, Ri-fol, Ri-fol, Tol-de-riddle-dee.
2   "Kind sir, pray pick of my basket!" she said,
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies, "My cherries ripe, or my roses red,
Fol-de-dee ! My strawberries sweet, I can of them spare, As I go on to Strawberry Fair." Ri-fol, &c.
3   Your cherries soon will be wasted away,
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies, Your roses wither and never stay,
Fol-de-dee! 'Tis not to seek such perishing ware, That I am tramping to Strawberry Fair. Ri-fol, &c.
4   I want to purchase a generous heart,
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies, A tongue that is neither nimble nor tart.
Fol-de-dee! An honest mind, but such trifles are rare, I doubt if they're found at Strawberry Fair. Ri-fol, &c.
5   The price I offer, my sweet pretty maid,
Singing, singing, buttercups and daisies, A ring of g. old on your finger displayed,
Fol-de-dee! So come, make over to me your ware In church to-day at Strawberry Fair. Ri-fol, Ri-fol, Tol-de-riddle-li-do, Ri-fol, Ri-fol, Tol-de-riddle-dee.

However, this version is sanitized. The original is more risque (you can read the lyrics and listen to it here), and I can find only one example of the prettily sanitized Baring-Gold version on youtube.  That doesn't mean there aren't others, I just could not find them. So I could not really include this one, either.  Perhaps later somebody else will add some other renditions we could use.  Meanwhile.... You can listen to the one I found here and see what you think about why I didn't include it.

 Of course, there's no reason you can't use any folk song you like for your own family!  Please do!  The folk songs AO suggests are there to help you, not to restrict you.  If you are not a part of one of the English speaking nations with origins in England or one of its English speaking colonies, you should definitely be looking for folk songs in your own culture and language.  I can't really help you do this because that would be arrogant and ridiculous, since I have not the background knowledge necessary for that.  Ask your grandparents, your great aunts and uncles, the elderly relatives of friends and acquaintances, see if anybody has made a study of your culture's folk music (ask the music departments of your country's universities, check libraries if you have access to them, look for buskers in your town and ask them if they know any old songs.)Your elderly relatives would probably be thrilled to share what they know.

  I was deeply blessed and encouraged at our camp in TN this past summer when a lovely Brazilian mother living in America  told me that singing the native folk music of her home country had been a beautiful, rich way for her kids to connect with their grandparents back home, and improve their accents and vocabulary at the same time.  Singing folk songs connects generations, she told me, and it gave me goosebumps of delight to think about it, it really did, right then and there.  Singing folk songs connects generations. 

 Sing.  Sing together. Sing the  happy songs, the sad songs, the tragic songs, the silly songs, the work songs, the love songs, the ballads and the nonsensical songs.   Sing.

In my opinion, the primary principle for folksongs in a Charlotte Mason education is just that: sing them.  Sing them. This is about participatory, active, personal involvement, not a consumer or spectator activity.  It doesn't matter if you don't like how you sound. Sing anyway.  It doesn't matter if you've never done this before. Sing anyway. There are sound physiological reasons for this- singing increases happy hormones, reduces stress, regulates your breathing.  Research shows that singing together is an activity that improves bonding, strengthens relationships, and just makes people feel more connected to each other- and couldn't we all use more of that in a family? It doesn't take more time, it saves you time, as by taking time to sing fun folk songs together you not only get the benefits that come from the act of singing, you lighten your day, increasing the sense of cooperative, unified spirit as folk singing does will repay you by making the rest of your day go more smoothly.

Hymns also do this, but hymns are not usually pitched in the easy, suitable for children way that folk songs are. They aren't about silly situations, they don't have the seemingly meaningless but rhythmic fol de rol refrains that give children mouth music and play with sounds and syllables and rhyme scheme.  You can play around with folk songs, singing them together as you do chores, go on road trips, sit in the dark during a power outage,  playfully messing about with the lyrics to make them funny, to make them match what you are doing or things that are happening in your lives in ways that might feel irreverent should you try them with hymns. 

I know I've said all this before, but we also have new families who are hearing this for the first time.

Please, give them a fair trial if you haven't already and sing folk songs together.

Friday, July 5, 2019

AmblesideOnline Folksongs 2019-2020 School Year

 FOLK SONGS 2019-2020 School Year:

  term 1: 

1. The Happy Wanderer.
We sang this at AM CM Camp 2019, and it was a huge hit, campers could be heard humming it in the lunch line, singing it absently mindedly while stirring their coffee, and basically just spontaneously singing it everywhere, albeit sometimes against their will.  Please note the number of times you say ha ha is a purely personal matter.  Some sing five, some squeeze in seven. It doesn't matter.  Do what works for you.  This muppet version seems to be quite popular!  This version is also on my playlist and will be easier to follow along with. (try this: and/or this one:

 The Happy Wanderer
1.    I love to go a-wandering
 Along the mountain track 

And as I go,

 I love to sing 

My knapsack on my back


Val-deri, val-dera

 Val-deri, val-dera, Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha 


Val-deri, val-dera !
My knapsack on my back

2. I love to wander by the stream
 That dances in the sun 
So joyously it calls to me 
Come join my happy song 


Val-deri, val-dera

 Val-deri, val-dera, Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha 


Val-deri, val-dera !

Come join my happy song
2.    I wave my hat to all I meet 

And they wave back to me 

And blackbirds call so loud and sweet 

From ev'ry green wood tree


Val-deri, val-dera

 Val-deri, val-dera, Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha  

Val-deri, val-dera !

From every green-wood tree.

4. High overhead the skylarks wing

They never rest at home

But just like me they love to sing

As o’er the world we roam.


Val-deri, val-dera

 Val-deri, val-dera, Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha 


Val-deri, val-dera !

As o’er the world we roam!

5. Oh, may I go a-wandering 

Until the day I die 

Oh, may I always laugh and sing 

Beneath God's clear blue sky


Val-deri, val-dera

 Val-deri, val-dera, Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha 


Val-deri, val-dera !
Beneath God's clear blue sky

2. Go Get the Ax-  This is a silly, jolly song that doesn't have to mean anything. It's just fun to be silly sometimes.   The same aged children who think it's funny to imagine nailing jello to a wall, or who laugh at jokes about how does the teflon stick to the pan when nothing sticks to teflon will probably most appreciate this song.  

To start your family off, you might have fun watching this Bugs Bunny clip.  
Another you-tube version

Peeping through the knot-hole
In Grandma's Wood Leg
Who will wind the clock
When I am gone?
Go get the ax

There's a flea in Lizzie's ear

And a boy's best friend is his mother.

I jumped out the window
A second story window
Why do they build the shore
So near the ocean?
Who cut the sleeves out of
Dear old daddy's vest?
And dug up Fido's bones to build the sewer?

A Horse stood around with its
Feet upon the ground
Oh, who will wind the clock
When I am gone?
Go get the ax
There's a fly on Lizzie's ear
And a boy's best friend is his mother.

3. The Foolish Boy, also known as the Swapping Song, Wing wing waddle, and there are a few other variations as wing wang waddle became something like wim wam wobble.

1. My father died and I cannot tell how, 
He left me six horses to follow the plough. 

 With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom. 

 2.   I sold my six horses and bought me a cow,
 I'd fain have a fortune, but didn't know how. 

 With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom. 

 3.   I sold my cow and bought me a calf, 
I'd fain have a fortune, but I lost a half.  

With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom.

 4.    I sold my calf and I bought me a cat ; 
The pretty thing by my chimney sat. 

 With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom. 

 5,   I sold my cat and I bought me a mouse ;
 He fired his tail and he burnt down my house. 

 With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom.

 6.  I have nothing to buy, and I've nothing to sell, 
And how I shall live, I am sure I cannot tell. 

 With a wing-wang-waddle, O! 
Jack sold his saddle O! 
 Blossy boys, bubble O ! 
under the broom.

The above lyrics are from the Sabine Baring Gould songbook recommended by some of Miss Mason's teachers, as seen in their magazine,  L'Umile Pianta.

Youtube:  I really don't like how this one sounds, but it has the right lyrics:

This one is prettier, but the lyrics are a bit different.  This really should not matter, as you are not going be using the youtube video forever, but only as a temporary walking cane to help you learn the tune quickly, so you can sing it on your own with whatever lyrics you prefer.

Wim Wim Wobble-O is a similar version here done by preschool or kindergarten teacher Dany Rosevear.  Bookmark her, she is a wonderful resource for English folk songs.
Here are the lyrics she uses:

I sold the horses and bought me a cow,
So I sold the cow and bought me a calf, I sold my calf and bought me a pig,
The poor little thing it never grew big. I sold my pig and bought me a hen, I sold that hen and bought me a cat,
The pretty little creature by the chimney corner sat. I sold the cat and bought a mouse, I sold my mouse and bought me a mole, 

Term 2:

1. Tenting tonight on the old campground (an American Civil war song from Tennessee, where we held our camp this year):

Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground lyrics

Many are the hearts that are weary tonight

Wishing for the war to cease

Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight, tenting on the old camp ground


We're tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear


We've been tenting tonight on the old camp ground
Thinking of days gone by
Of the loved ones at home that gave us the hand
And the tear that said "Goodbye"


We are tired of war on the old camp ground
Many are dead and gone
Of the brave and true who've left their homes
Others been wounded long


We've been fighting today on the old camp ground
Many are lying near
Some are dead and some are dying
Many are in tears


Or you might prefer Preaching on the Old Campground by the inimitable Mississippi John Hurt.  It has the same tune, but simplified, and with a simpler set of lyrics.  (also here)

We're preaching tonight on the old campground
Preaching on the old campground
Preaching tonight, preaching tonight, 
Preaching on the old campground.

Then substitute praying, singing, moaning (or mourning, I'm not sure), 

2. Shake Sugaree 

Have a little song
Won't take long
Sing it right
Once or twice

Oh, lordy me
Didn't I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is done and pawned
Everything I got is done and pawned

Pawn my watch
Pawn my chain
Pawn everything that was in my name

Oh, lordy me
Didn't I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is done and pawned
Everything I got is done and pawned

Pawn by buggy
Horse and cart
Pawn everything that was on my lot

Oh, lordy me
Didn't I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is done and pawned
Everything I got is done and pawned

Pawn my chair.
Pawn my bed
Ain't got nowhere to lay my head

Oh, lordy me
Didn't I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is done and pawned
Everything I got is done and pawned

Pawn my tobacco
Pawn my pipe
Pawned everything that was in my sight
Oh, lordy me
Didn't I shake sugaree?
Everything I got is done and pawned

Everything I got is done and pawned

Elizabeth Cotton, the creator of Freight Train, wrote this with her grandchildren, and her grand-daughter Brenda, age 12, is probably the voice we're hearing on the youtube version.  More about this song and other variations and versions here.
I first heard it over 20 years ago, on Taj Mahal's album for kids (Shake Sugaree, Taj Mahal sings and plays for childrenYou can hear the single here.

While working on this list, I've been listening to the glorious voice of Rhiannan Giddens, possibly about a hundred times in the last 23 hours.  I cannot get enough of her gorgeous voice.

3.  Health to the Company.  Please bear with me on this one.  It's been a family favourite for over 20 years.  I realize that at first glance, it appears to be a drinking song, and for many of you, that will be fine.  However, it doesn't *have* to be. If you can't celebrate, feast, and be merry with your family over grapejuice and ginger-ale, you're doing it wrong.  Most of the years we sang this song the wee lass sitting on my knee with a smile on her countenance was my sixth daughter (and there's still none can excel for her style or her beauty).  
Have fun with it, dance a jig, spring a little joyful exuberance into your lives.  Or choose another song or repeat an old favourite. Your choice.  Here are the lyrics:

 Health to the Company

Kind Friend and Companions, '
Come join me in rhyme, 
Come lift up your voices, 
In chorus with mine, 
Come lift up your voices, 
all grief to refrain, 
For we may or might never, 
all meet here again 
Here's a health to the company 
and one to my lass, 
Let us drink and be merry,
 all out of one glass, 
Let us all drink and be merry, 
all grief to refrain For we may or might never,
 all meet here again 
Here's a health to the wee lass,
 that I love so well,
 For her style and her beauty, 
sure none can excel, 
There's a smile on her countenance, 
as she sits on my knee, 
There's no man in this wide world, 
as happy as me, 
Here's a health to the company, 
and one to my lass 
Let us drink and be merry, 
all out of one glass, 
Let us drink and be merry, 
all grief to refrain 
For we may or might never, 
all meet here again, 
Our ship lies at anchor, 
she's ready to dock, 
I wish her safe landing, 
without any shock,
 If ever I should meet you,
 by land or by sea,
 I will always remember, 
your kindness to me,
 Here's a health to the company 
and one to my lass,
 Let us drink and be merry,
 all out of one glass, 
Let us all drink and be merry, 
all grief to refrain 
For we may or might never, 
all meet here again

Health to the Company, Chieftains

        During your Christmas break, try a carol you may be less familiar with:

                     Lo, How a Rose e'er Blooming and/or It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

term 3:

Little Brown Dog

Oh once I had a little dog, his color it was brown
I taught him for to whistle, to sing and dance and run
His legs they were fourteen yards long, his ears so very wide
Around the world in half a day, upon him I could ride. 

Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing, Autumn to May. 

Oh once I had a little frog, he wore a vest of red
He'd lean upon his silver cane, a top hat on his head
He'd speak of far off places, of things to see and do,
Of all the Kings and Queens he'd met while sailing in a shoe. 

Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing, Autumn to May. 

Oh once I had a flock of sheep, they grazed upon a feather
I'd keep them in a music box from wind or rainy weather
And every day the sun would shine, they'd fly all through the town
To bring me back some golden rings, candy by the pound. 

Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing, Autumn to May. 

Oh once I had a downey swan, she was so very frail
She sat upon an oyster shell and hatched me out a snail
The snail had changed into a bird, the bird to butterfly
And he who tells a bigger tale would have to tell a lie. 

Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing, Autumn to May. 

Once upon a time in Arkansas
An old man sat at his little cabin door
And he fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear
a jolly old tune that he played by hear
it was raining hard
by the fiddler didn't care
he sawed away at the popular air
and his roof tree leaked like a waterfall
but it didn't seem to bother the man at all.

a traveler was riding by that day
and he stopped to hear him a-practicin' away
the cabin was afloat and his feet were wet but still the old man didn't seem to fret
so the stranger said now the way  it seems to me
you'd better mend your roof, said he, 
but the old man said as he played away
I could'n't mend it now, it's a rainy day.

This is obviously the tune of bringing home a baby bumble bee.  You could sing that if you prefer. There are multiple versions of this using the same tune.  Don't fret too much about finding the perfect version.  This is true of all the folk songs.

3. How Many Miles to London Town (also sometimes How Many Miles to Babylon). It's a song, a game, and/or a simple dance.  I have played it in the living room with five grandchildren.  It would be a good choice for a co-op group to do together.  More here, including a score and a recording:

HEre's a youtube video showing a group of children performing the actions/steps to the song.

How many miles to Babylon (or London Town)
Three Score and Ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes and back again.

Open the gates to let me through
open the gates to let me through
Open the gates to let me through
So I can travel on.

Not without a beck and a boo (or bow)
Not without a beck and a boo
Not without a beck and a boo
Will I open the gate to let you through.

Here's your beck and here's your boo
Here's your beck and here's your boo
Here's your beck and here's your boo
Now open the gate and let me through.

Here is my youtube playlist for the year's folksongs.

Amazon Affiliate Links, however, if you have Amazon Prime or another streaming option, you can listen to most of these for free.  I could not find a satisfactory link to HOw Many Miles, but here are the others:

Happy Wanderer, sung by Bill Staines.  It has all the verses but changes 'beneath God's clear blue sky' to 'beneath the clear blue sky.'  A bit slower than the versions in my youtube play list.  Also has a hint of yodeling in a few of the choruses.  Or this version by Charlie Hope. She sings clearly and a bit faster than Staines, but leaves out the last verse.

Go Get the Axe

Wing-wang-waddle, The Foolish Boy, or the swapping song by Shirley Elizabeth Collins
This version has all the right lyrics, but I find the sound incredibly irritating.  You can also find it on youtube to see what you think.    Definitely try before you buy. 

 Shake Sugaree sung by Rhiannon Giddens   Read more about Rhiannon Giddens here.

Tenting Tonight, by Lightening in a Jar or Preaching Tonight by Mississippi John Hurt

The Little Brown Dog (or Autumn to May)

Chieftains, Health to the Company

Arkansas Traveller, by the Rocking Horse Players