Home > Large mixed ensemble > Folk Song Suite for young voices and piano with optional percussion

Folk Song Suite for young voices and piano with optional percussion

Richard Lambert
Year of arrangement
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
12 minutes
Classical music
Large mixed ensemble
Instrumental parts

A reduced version of Op.2, a suite of folk tunes, for young voices and piano. Optional percussion parts available (five players): glockenspiel, chime bars, triangle, tambourine and bass drum or floor tom

The suite is a compilation of wide-ranging folk songs and melodies: negro spiritual, work song, Scottish and Hebrew melodies:

This old hammer and Zum gali gali The Tinker’s Wedding Go down Moses Hava nagilah

The first movement, in a ternary structure, has a slightly austere mood with a persistent E minor pedal in keeping with the monotony inherent in a work song - This Old Hammer (Killed John Henry).

John Henry was born a slave in the mid-19th century in North Corolina or Virginia, USA, and died in his thirties as a labourer for the railroad after the American Civil War. The repetition is deliberate; variety is achieved through the use of simple canon in the voices and changing ostinato patterns in the harmony.

It merges into Zum gali gali (rhythmic words with no meaning), an old Hebrew song ostensibly relating to the formation of the state of Israel but treated here as if it is another work song, before a reprise of This Old Hammer.

The mood changes with a lively Scottish melody, three verses of The Tinker’s Wedding.

The third movement is a gentle arrangement in G minor of Go Down Moses. It is based on a four-bar descending chord scheme and a recurring, wordless choral introduction to each verse in descending thirds.

A climactic modulatory transition links the spiritual to the final movement, Hava Nagilah, a Hasidic melody of uncertain origin and now a Hebrew folk song (“let us rejoice”), which has become almost an anthem of secular Jewish culture. As is customary, its initial steady tempo gradually gains momentum and races to a rousing conclusion.

Folk Song Suite has also been transcribed for concert band

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