Wednesday, August 7, 2013

2013-14 Folk Songs

Sooo... folk songs. Can I just admit that I don't really know what we're doing here with these? Some of them are lovely. They give a real feel for the people of certain nations. Others are... well... a little macabre. I suppose that gives a feel for cultures, too, but I'm not so sure that we are going to use them - at least not at this point, with kids this age. Last year, we substituted patriotic songs, which I suppose are a kind of folk song. It was enjoyable, but I'm looking to expand a bit further afield this year. At any rate, here we are with the 2013-14 Ambleside Folk Songs rotation, and I'm giving it a shot. There are several articles linked from Ambleside's main page that explain more about folk music and why you would want to study it. I suppose it would be helpful if I read through those!

My ideal would be to burn CDs for composer, hymn, and folksong studies. That probably isn't going to happen, so YouTube is the next best thing. I have a playlist of all the songs for the year. My plan is to play the folk song for that month during our Table Time, then turn on the whole playlist occasionally. I suppose if I get ambitious, I could look up the history of the song and tell my kids about it. That was fun for some of the patriotic songs last year.

You can access my entire playlist here. I picked my favorite one or two versions of each song. Personally, I prefer a classic, down-home feel for the songs. I really wanted clear lyrics if possible, and I prefer a simple arrangement to the music. Other people like a more choral sound, a classical feel, or something else altogether. You can copy my list in part, in its entirety, or search through to find the versions you prefer, or play directly from the blog.

September: The Three Ravens

This one would be the macabre one I mentioned. It is about three ravens trying to decide what to eat for breakfast. They eventually settle on the dead body of the knight over in yonder field and the doe who died trying to bury him. Umm, yeah. I may replace this one with an American folk song, maybe something from the Appalachian mountain region.

 Peter, Paul and Mary

This Mary Hopkin video has some lovely pictures, including images from Medieval illuminated manuscripts.

October: On Ilkha Moor Baht' At

This is a fun tune about a boy who goes out on the Yorkshire moors baht' at (without a hat). A terrible fate befalls him in this cautionary tale. The tune is peppy, the lyrics are so over-the-top that they are funny, and I enjoyed hearing the Yorkshire dialect. It reminded me of the maid, Martha, in The Secret Garden.

This video has nice, clear vocals.

 This one has beautiful landscape pictures and a peppier version of the tune.

November: The Rose of Tralee

A traditional Irish love song:
      She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer
      Yet, it was not her beauty alone that won me
      Oh no! 'Twas the the truth in her eyes ever dawning
      That made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

I think this version is just lovely - simple music, clear vocals, and a nice accent.

More impressive landscape photography.

January: The Battle of Otterburn

This Scottish song is about a border skirmish between the Scots and the English in 1388

This video tells the story behind the song using text and pictures from the local area.

This version by The Wolfhound is much more difficult to understand, because of the broad accent of the singer. I like the sound better, though.

February: Wade in the Water

An African American slave spiritual

A classic version from The Staples.

This video includes quite a bit more information about the African slaves. Some of the images may be disturbing. Then again, I guess they should be.

A beautifully danced rendition.

 March: Down in the Valley
Roses love sunshine, violets love dew,
Angels in Heaven know I love you,
From "Songs my Father Taught Me to Love." What a great title for a folk album!

April: Scarborough Fair

This Simon & Garfunkel version includes the lyrics, which is always helpful to me and my kids.

Not only do I love their voices, I thought my girls would particularly appreciate this video. First of all, there are three sisters in the group like their own family. Secondly, you can see the singers playing traditional instruments, which are lovely.

This version has more of a British feel to it than the Simon & Garfunkel version. It also includes landscape photography from the Scarborough area.

May: The Rising of the Moon

An Irish battle rally song about the uprising of 1798

      I bear orders from the captain - get you ready quick and soon
      For the pikes must be together by the rising of the moon...

      Well they fought for poor old Ireland, and full bitter was their fate,
      Oh what glorious pride and sorrow, fills the name of ninety-eight!
      Yet, thank God, e'en still are beating hearts in manhood burning noon,
      Who would follow in their footsteps, at the risin' of the moon

Includes newspaper, video, and photographs.

A more traditional Irish feel.

May: The Belle of Belfast City

A fast, fun song about a pretty little heartbreaker from Belfast City.


 I don't like the vocals and music quite as much, but this video shows the lyrics

Have you included folk music in your kiddo's curriculum? What did you think? Do you prefer to limit your playlist to local or national music, or do you venture further afield for your selections?


  1. We've been homeschooling for 2 years; we've used the AO folksongs as scheduled. We link from the one or two options listed on the AO site, then like you, search for which versions we like best. We've really enjoyed the folksongs -- I'll admit that I didn't really think the boys would like them at first (they were then 7 and 4). The very first folksong we used was Aiken Drum (our favorite versions were and this very Scottish sounding version ) and it was such a big hit!

    For the songs this year that you don't really want to use, you could always go back to some of the ones you've missed the last few years.

    You're welcome to check out our playlist for that year 2011-12: -- there were so many great songs!
    Other favorites were Simple Gifts, The Log Driver's Waltz, and the Lion Sleeps Tonight.

    Thanks for sharing your list. I'll definitely check out the versions you've recommended.


  2. ooooh my! Thank you soooo much for posting these!!!!! I am so following your lead... I have been doing AO for 3 yrs, but this is the first year, I haven't been pregnant, nursing a teeny tiny one, in the middle of a big move or recovering from any or all of the above. THIS year we will get the beauty in our schooling, not just the core! Thank you, thank you, thank you for making it easier for me!

  3. Thank you so much for this! I subscribed to you on youtube.