15 Jan 2014

AO7 folksong playlist

Before Puritan innovations made us a staid and circumspect people, English lads and lasses of all ages danced out little dramas on the village green, accompanying themselves with the words and airs of just such as the French children sing to-day. We have a few of them left still––to be heard at Sunday-school treats and other gatherings of the children,––and they are well worth preserving: 'There came three dukes a-riding, a-riding, a-riding': 'Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's'; 'Here we come gathering nuts in May'; 'What has my poor prisoner done?' and many more, all set to delightful sing-song airs that little feet trip to merrily, the more so for the pleasant titillation of the words––dukes, nuts, oranges,––who could not go to the tune of such ideas?

Charlotte Mason, Home Education p 82
We don't know much about how Miss Mason taught folksongs, excepts that she did.  One Parents' Review article tells us that 'folksongs' were taught only to the very youngest children, the 8-9 year olds, being replaced by 'English and French songs' in later years.  I can only guess that this means nursery songs like those listed above:  Oranges and Lemons;  Here We Come Gathering Nuts in May;  and so on in the first year, and what we call folksongs after that. Beyond that, we know very little.

(As an aside, and just because I find trivial information interesting, there are no nuts to gather in May. The lyrics are a corruption of the phrase “Here we go gathering knots of may” and refers to the ancient custom of picking bunches (knots) of flowers on May Day to celebrate the end of winter.  Cool, eh?)

I, personally, have written far more about singing folksongs than Charlotte ever did.  You'll find the 40 odd posts in the folksong category (original name, yes?) in the right toolbar. We're a singing family, and I guess that shows.  We're always bursting into song at the most surprising times.  Yes, we're an embarrassment.

In the primary school years, we've chosen to sing our school folksongs using a theme - mediaeval songs one term, songs special to family members another.  Most terms we've themed our songs by country of origin.  You'll find our reasoning for this in those 41 posts, but mostly it is so we can better detect differences between the songs of one country and another. Folksongs integrate really closely with a country, and listening to a group of three songs reveals distinct difference in musical instruments, rhythm and subject matter. Australian songs sound really odd when played and sung by an American bluegrass band like The Homestead Pickers. Japanese songs are lovely accompanied by koto, shamisen or Japanese flute.

In the HEO years, of which Jemimah's current year, AO7, is the first, students may either continue with the AO folksong rotation, or choose to study songs that are particularly appropriate to the time period of that year. After 6 years - that's 18 terms of 3 folksongs, we've chosen to use the time period method, and it is exciting to see such a good match between what we're studying and what we're singing.

I always find YouTube invaluable for learning new songs.  After they're learnt, we tend to sing unaccompanied, but the videos are great for learning lyrics as well as tune.

Here's a playlist for AO7, in case you decide to join us:

There are two or three versions of each of the folksongs listed by AO for year 7. You can find the list on the Year 7 booklist page.

As Charlotte says, I do hope you enjoy "the pleasant titillation of the words.  Who could not go to the tune of such ideas?"

Sing loudly.  Have fun.  We do.


  1. Just wanted to say I loooove your blog....I know this sounds silly, but it totally takes me away to a peaceful, easy feeling for education and life. I've been perusing lots of your old posts, especially those that describe your homeschool days and thoroughly enjoying myself.

    Thanks for this!

  2. Thank you so much, TenArrows. Our home is not always peaceful, but we do work hard to make it so. Come and chat to me again. I'd like that. :)

  3. Have you heard of the Full English project? It's a mammoth effort to put the manuscripts of many collectors of English folk songs online, and is a goldmine if you are interested in exploring traditional English song. I don't think there are recordings (although the team released a CD of their own interpretations of their favourites) but they often include references to the tune which was used, or sometimes several tunes. Worth looking into. I think folksong is a fascinating insight into the way society chooses to view its own history. May

  4. I love that you are a year ahead of us so you do all the work for me! lol

  5. I missed this post. I like tying folksongs in with history but I always default back to the Scottish songs. Can't help myself, especially this year.


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