I HAD TO INCLUDE FOLK SONGS...




Welcome to the second blog post of The Little Music Bazaar.

In the last two weeks I’ve written and recorded six new easy pieces, and they are now on the site:

A little Duet’ – an easy violin duet with optional piano part

Floating’ – another easy violin duet with an optional piano part and an alternative viola part to replace violin 2

The Wind at the Door’ – an easy violin duet with an integral piano part

An Old Hymn’ - a trio for 2 violins and cello with an alternative viola part that replaces violin 2.

The Carousel’ - a trio for violins with an alternative viola part that replaces violin 3.

The Ticking Clock’ - another violin trio but with an integral piano accompaniment.


So it’s all go…

My next idea is to arrange more folk songs so I thought in this post I’d talk about two of the folk songs I’ve arranged already: ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Ca’ the Yows’, and why I decided to include these arrangements.




It’s very simple really. I want to include folk tunes on the site because I just love them and they remind me of past times in my life. My arrangements are maybe too complex technically for absolute beginners, but they can certainly be played by more advanced learner and amateur players. They are also suitable for professionals. I worked recently playing background music at a wedding reception and we played my arrangements there. They worked well.


As I said in my previous blog post that before I got into any of this I had a yearning to write music for beginner string players. Back then I decided to have a go at arranging music. I began to arrange ‘Away in a Manger’ and it makes me laugh now because I worked on that particular tune for weeks and weeks, creating loads of versions of it for different abilities and standards of player. I thought that was the way forward. Folk songs were definitely going to be on the agenda – if I ever finished my infinite versions of ‘Away in a manger’! Later, when I decided to concentrate on original compositions, I felt that I still wanted to include the folk songs. The real reason was my love for the tune ‘Danny Boy’.

‘Danny Boy’ is my favourite. The words were written by Fred Weatherley in 1910 to a different tune than the one we now know. Fred was then introduced to the melody 'Londonderry Air', thought to have been collected in the mid 19th century by a Jane Ross of Limavady, and he rewrote his words to fit them to this new melody. ‘Danny Boy’ as we know it was published in 1913.

A few years ago I did a concert with some other musicians at a beautiful old church, St. Peter's, in Bywell, in Northumberland.

It’s our family church and my father is organist and choir master there and it’s where my husband and I were married. The concert consisted of five musicians performing solos and duets. It took months to plan but on the night before the concert, when I was still at home in Birmingham, I realised there wasn’t a piece that we were all involved in. I managed, that evening, to cobble together a version of ‘Danny Boy’. We ran through it ten minutes before the end of the rehearsal, one hour before the concert and played it together as an encore at the end of the concert. It was one of the highlights of my professional life (even though it wasn’t a professional gig). It just worked so well and we all played and sang our hearts out. It brought the house down and when people came to talk to us at the end most people said that that was the piece in the concert they had enjoyed the most! One older audience member said that his father had sang it to him every night when he was a boy and hearing it then had moved him to tears. So I had to arrange ‘Danny Boy’. I had to include it on the site and it paved the way for me arranging more.

‘Ca’ the Yows’, meaning ‘Drive the sheep to the hills’, is another one of my absolute favourite tunes. But I’ve barely met anyone who knows it!


In 1794 Robert Burns heard it when it was sung by John Clunie, a school master from Markirch. It was first published in the Scots Musical museum, a collection of Scottish folk songs, in 1790. Burns described it as “...a beautiful song in the true old Scotch taste”. Robert Burns took the original words, altered some and added some new verses and it was then published that year by George Thomson.


I first heard ‘Ca’ the Yows’ when I was a teenager. I was obsessed with the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and for my music A-level I did a project on his choral music. I bought a vinyl record of his opera ‘Riders to the Sea’, a very melancholy and rather depressing one act opera about fishermen drowning out at sea, and on the B-side (it was the 1980s!) was a collection of folk songs arranged by Vaughan Williams and one of those was ‘Ca’ The Yows’. I heard it and it absolutely captivated me. I actually started this arrangement of ‘Ca’ the Yows’ way back then and kept it all these years. There is an incredibly beautiful and moving performance of it that I heard on YouTube recently, sung by Kathleen Ferrier.


In 1794 Robert Burns heard it when it was sung by John Clunie, a school master from Markirch. It was first published in the Scots Musical museum, a collection of Scottish folk songs, in 1790. Burns described it as “...a beautiful song in the true old Scotch taste”. Robert Burns took the original words, altered some and added some new verses and it was then published that year by George Thomson.

The other two folk songs I’ve arranged and which are available to purchase on the site are ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ and ‘Skye Boat Song’. I’d like to talk about those two songs another short post soon.


Thanks for reading!!


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