An arrangement of a Traditional Song, for String Quartet


Standard: Moderate


Running time: 3 minutes 12 seconds

  • What you will receive....

    Your download will contain a PDF of the score and parts and an MP3 audio file of the full piece to aid rehearsal. See our How It Works page for more information. 

  • About the piece

    Ca’ the yowes to the knowes, Drive the sheep to the hills,
    Ca’ them where the heather grows, Drive them where the heather grows
    Ca’ them where the burnie rowes, Drive them where the stream flows,
    My bonie dearie. My beautiful dear.


    In 1794 Robert Burns heard this Scottish folk song when it was sung by John Clunie, a school master from Markirch. It had been 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”. It wasn’t Robert Burns who originally wrote the words. He just took those original words, altered some and added some new verses. It was then published that year by George Thomson and it became one of the most famous old Scottish tunes. It has been performed and recorded since by singers, bands and folk groups all over the world.


    I first heard this tune when I was 18. I bought a vinyl LP of folk songs arranged for singers by Ralph Vaughan Williams and I have been in love with it ever since. This arrangement is one I began back then, over thirty years ago. I decided to revisit it this year and I’m pleased to include it here, finally finished!


    It has some technical challenges, especially for the 1st violin, and so that is why I suggest Moderate as the level, but perhaps the other three parts could be attempted by less experienced players.