New Releases: Folk Songs from around the World

SBO Staff • ChoralDecember 2010Repertoire Forum • December 2, 2010

This is the third of five issues featuring new releases. This month, I highlight arrangements of folk songs from around the world. Many of these selections lend themselves to units of study in the classroom or in collaboration with other disciplines, and address the National Standard, “Understanding music in relation to history and culture.” Countries represented here include Canada, France, Ghana, Korea, Latvia, Moravia (Czech Republic), Thailand, and each of the British isles. My next column will focus on the musical heritage of the United States.


Arlequin Dans Sa Boutique (French, arr. E. Rentz S. Byrnes) Carl Fischer
This French folk song has been scored for two-part treble voices with piano and optional percussion. It tells the story of a toyshop owner teaching music “to all his little helpers.” The language is French, and there is very little of it to learn. A singable English translation is provided in the music as a second line of text. Later in the piece, the language is exclusively English. The optional percussion parts (finger cymbal, triangle, guiro, vibra-slap and wood block) help put the listener in the toyshop: they are fun, and will dress up your performance of this charming work. The percussion parts are simple ostinatos playable by the singers. The score is replete with teaching tools. Dr. Rentz has excerpted some of these as rehearsal suggestions, which are included in the inside front cover. Visit to view the entire score and hear a beginning-to-end recording. Also on this site, find and download the following mp3s for free: part-predominant, accompaniment, and French pronunciation.

Ej, Lásko, Lásko (Moravian, arr. L. Cerny) Colla Voce
For SA voices with alto recorder, cello and piano. This score is part of the excellent Ruth Dwyer Choral Series, which is a terrific series for developing choirs. While suitable for the elementary choir, it may be attractive to older treble choirs as well. The minor melody is haunting, and perfectly fits the sentiment of the text: “Love, you are not stable, flowing like a stream, gone in an instant.” Arranger Cerny is himself Czech, lending special weight in terms of authenticity to this arrangement. The publisher does not provide a recording online, but a homemade YouTube video of a terrific performance is available.

Piping Tim of Galway (Irish, arr. K. Loftis) Pavane
This upbeat score is part of the Judith Herrington Choral Series. It is scored for two-part chorus and piano, and includes a very brief optional descant at the end. The tune tells the story of an especially musical man who pipes day and night. The singers get to imitate the pipe on nonsense syllables with bouncing thirds and cascading scalar passages. The arrangement is fun to sing, interesting to hear, and full of teaching tools. The melody features some leaps that will require some special coaching in order for the top note to be in tune and sound good. Visit for a free score sample and beginning-to-end recording.

Also strongly recommended:

#149; “Come Out To Play,” an English street cry arranged by Douglas Beam. Another selection in Ruth Dwyer’s series published by Colla Voce.


I Have a Bonnet (Irish, arr. G. Craig) Cypress
A charming setting of a little-known tune, either from Ireland or Scotland. Scored for SSA chorus unaccompanied, the words make this especially suitable for an all-girl chorus (“I have a bonnet trimmed with blue. Do you wear it? Yes, I do. // I will wear it when I can, going to the ball with my young man.”). Note that each of the three voice parts divides, albeit briefly. The piece is only 63 measures long and lasts not much longer than a minute, but it certainly is a fun minute! Light, fun, charming, and slightly sassy. The arranger captures the polka feel mentioned in the second verse in the musical setting, giving the piece a jaunty momentum that is infectious. This would sound good if done by your whole chorus, but would also work nicely if sung by six-12 singers in a small ensemble. A recording and score sample are available on the publisher’s website.

Oh, Whistle (Scottish, arr. N. Grundahl) Hal Leonard
A selection in the Henry Leck Choral Series for SSA and piano. Mack Wilberg fans will remember his excellent arrangement of this tune for mixed chorus from some years back. Hearing Grundahl’s fresh take sung by all-female chorus, however, gives a fresh hearing to Robert Burns’ poem. As with “I Have a Bonnet” (above), the subject matter makes these words ideal for a female chorus, though mixed children’s choirs would certainly enjoy it as well. A sort of “Scottish Romeo Juliet” story is told in this delightful arrangement. Explore with your singers the drama of Burns’ poem, treating the score almost like the script of a play. Each voice part gets to sing the melody, and the singers get to imitate bagpipes as well as whistle. Hear a snippet and see sample pages at

Also strongly recommended:

#149; “Jai Bhavani,” an Indian selection for SA choir and percussion arranged by Ethan Sperry. Published by earthsongs. Score sample and audio snippet available at the publisher’s website.


A Full Sheet and a Flowing Sea (Sea Shanty, arr. G. Parks) BriLee
For younger singers, this English sea shanty is arranged for TB and piano. An optional middle part is added from time to time for groups who are ready to start singing in three parts. The score features a simple meter change for the ‘B’ section, which helps illustrate the homesick sailor spoken of in the second verse. Visit to view the entire score, hear a beginning-to-end recording, and download part-predominant mp3’s.

Arirang (Korean, arr. K. Berg) Carl Fischer
Scored for TTB voices and two percussionists. There is no keyboard accompaniment, the voice parts require a certain amount of singer independence, there are two key changes, and the language is Korean; all of this points to the need for a slightly more advanced ensemble. However, if your group is wells suited to this piece, it is not to be missed. Berg’s arrangement captures perfectly the style of the folk melody, illustrating Arirang mountain, the journey, and the starry night spoken of in the text. The “cymbals” part may be played by a suspended cymbal played lightly with a metal beater, finger cymbals, or low-pitched triangle. The part marked “pitched wooden” may be played by xylophone, marimba, or Orff instruments. A singable transliteration is provided as a second line to aid in pronunciation. Translation and cultural context are provided. Visit to view the entire score, hear a beginning-to-end recording, and download part-predominant and accompaniment mp3’s. See later in this article a new mixed arrangement of this same melody.

Also strongly recommended:

#149; “It Chanced When I Was Walking,” an Irish folk song arranged by Bruce Trinkley. Published by Carl Fischer.


The Ash Grove (Welsh, arr. L. Spevacek) Heritage
This familiar tune is scored for three-part mixed (with optional baritone) and piano. The optional baritone part allows you to tailor the score to fit the personnel of your particular choir. An SATB voicing is also available and fits perfectly with the three-part mixed version, thus making a collaboration between your middle school and high school choirs easy, if desired. Visit for a free score sample and beginning-to-end recording. Performance/accompaniment CD is available for purchase.

The True Lover’s Farewell (English, arr. R. Unterseher) Walton
This is a well known English folk tune without an easily available standard choral arrangement. Unterseher’s is very nice, featuring a sensitive piano part and flexible voicing. The voicing is SA(T)B. When the optional tenor part sings, it doubles the soprano in octaves. This octave doubling not only facilitates choirs with varying numbers between sections, but also results in an other-worldly effect that perfectly captures what the publisher aptly calls the “heartfelt dialog between a young couple in a moment of farewell.” Hear a full-length recorded performance at, and see score samples at


Verduron (French-Canadian, arr. R. Haldeman) Walton
Many French-Canadian folk songs feature a rhythmic momentum and catchy melody (recall, for example, the arrangements of Donald Patriquin published by earthsongs). Haldeman’s arrangement has both of these attributes. This is a very fun arrangement: the minor melody is relentless and fun, the singers are called to use body percussion (such as claps and hand-dusting), and the piano part ranges from understated to driving to jazzy. Dynamic contrast, brief unaccompanied moments, and dramatic tension between females and males lead to a dramatic finish. The French text is repetitive and easy to learn. Hear a full-length recorded performance at, and see score samples at

Arirang (Korean, arr. G. Cochran) pub. ECS
I reviewed Ken Berg’s arrangement of this same tune for TTB chorus above. Grant Cochran’s arrangement for mixed voices is equally stunning, but takes a different approach. This arrangement, of medium difficulty, requires a lovely lyric soprano soloist for much of the piece. The overall “audience effect” may best be described as atmospheric. Cochran is a talented arranger (investigate his superb “What Child Is This”, also published by ECS), and he has crafted a fantastic setting of this popular Korean tune. The main challenge here would seem to be intonation: there are several precarious melodic intervals (for example, downward leaps to ‘re’), and a few moments where the basses have descending parallel fifths. Score and recording are available on the publisher’s Web site, though they can be difficult to locate there.

Also strongly recommended:

#149; “Sarkandaila roze auga” translates as “The Beautiful Red Rose.” It is a Latvian folk song arranged by Andrejs Jansons for SATB and published by Earthsongs. Absolutely beautiful.
#149; “Lao Duang Deuan” is a Thai folk song arranged by K. Tantrarungroj for SATB choir and published by Earthsongs. Some YouTube videos of this arrangement are available. Delicate and engaging.
#149; “Stan’ Still Jordan” combines an African American spiritual and the Ghanian folksong Egbe nukpowo. It is arranged for SATB div. and percussion by Thomas Lloyd and published by Alliance. Score and audio samples available on the publisher’s website.

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