Often in music classes, kids learn folk songs. It’s a basic part of elementary music, early childhood music and movement, and the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. But, what is a folk song?
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What is a Folk Song?
A folk song is a song that was transmitted orally, usually with an unknown composer, or a song that is influenced by that type of traditional song.
Music “transmitted orally” means that it was never written down. The people who composed the songs weren’t trained in music. Maybe it was a mom who made up a lullaby to get her baby to sleep, or a man who wrote a love song for the lady he loved, or a song in story-form written by parents to tell the history of their society to their children.
Folk songs were carried down through history and the original composers were forgotten. But eventually, the songs were written down and continue to be sung by people today.
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In the early 20th century many composers and musicologists went into towns and countrysides to collect the “music of the people.” This photograph from the great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok recording folk songs from peasants in Slovakia is one of my favorites.
The folk music of the 1960s in America grew out of a revival of “everyday” music that spoke about “everyday” topics, such as love and peace.
Why Learn Folk Songs?
There are several reasons why we learn folk songs.
- Folk songs help us understand a people group and their history. (If it’s our own people group and history, that helps us learn more about ourselves!)
- Since many of the songs were written by amateur musicians and composers, they are often easy for children to sing, play, and memorize.
- Because the songs are so old and the composers unknown, they are often in the public domain, meaning that copyright royalties don’t need to be paid.
What are the Best Folk Songs to Learn?
I am currently working on an online course called A Folk Song a Week that will provide 36 of the best folk songs to learn in your school or homeschool. Be sure to sign up for my email newsletter so you’ll know when it’s ready!
Today, I’ll share one folk song with you to whet your appetite!
A Folk Song to Learn this Week
Take a few minutes today to learn a folk song. Here is one of my favorites. . .
Lyrics of “Danny Boy”:
Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling,
From glen to glen and down the mountain side;
The summer’s gone, and all the leaves are falling;
‘Tis you, ’tis you must go, and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow;
I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow;
Oh Danny boy, Oh Danny boy, I love you so.
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.
Video of “Danny Boy”:
Another version of “Danny Boy”:
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Composer Sheet, Listen and Write (Tempo, Mood, Like it?, and Instruments/Voices), and Listen and Draw