Sounding Childhood

SOUNDING CHILDHOOD by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre


A website devoted to children's 19th-century music

This is an academic website stemming from my research and publications focused on Victorian children's music.  Children were just as musical as adults during the 19th century, but little has been done to explore their music.  Neither was there the capability or interest in recording nineteenth-century children's songs or their singing.

This website attempts to fill this musical void.  As part of the Sounding Victorian collective (est. Dr. Phyllis Weliver, 2016) and in collaboration with colleagues at my institution, Indiana University East, in Richmond, Indiana, I have organized biannual, local children's choir-camps since 2015 to learn and record popular 19th-century songs for children (much of it specifically from the Victorian era, 1837-1901) so that we can hear what children over 100 years ago were singing.  This music for Victorian children was quite diverse. Some of it was used for play (taught by adults, adapted by children, like nursery rhymes and folksongs), much of it was taught in church and school (hymns and school songs), by the end of the century, Christmas carols were sung extensively during the holiday, and some songs were even written and used politically, like those for the animal-rights movement (Bands of Mercy songs).

The site is organized into FIVE parts based on those musical genres we have recorded, biannually, to date: children's hymns (recorded in 2015), children's school and play songs (recorded in 2017), Bands of Mercy songs (recorded in 2019), Christmas carols (recorded in 2023, with a skipped year due to COVID), and now folksongs (2024).  Click the title links below which will take you to information, scores, pictures, & musical recordings within each of these genres.  The Menu (upper left) will navigate to them as well and the lists of songs appear to the right.  I especially thank Jessica Raposo, Director of Music, for co-leading the first three camps with me, and Beth South, Assistant Librarian, Indiana University East, for rebuilding this scalar-based website in summer 2023.

I hope you will enjoy this re-created musical experience, which will allow you to experience the sounds of childhood from another era.  As you see by the pictures, even our contemporary children relish re-visiting the Victorian past: feigning photographic seriousness, dressing in period clothes, and of course singing these engaging songs! 

Dr. Alisa Clapp-Itnyre
Professor of English
Indiana University East
Richmond, IN 


Part 1: Hymns & Religious Songs  (Click here)

Part 2: Songs for School & Play (Click here)

Part 3: Animal Welfare (Bands of Mercy) Songs  (Click here)

Part 4: Christmas Carols  (Click here)

Part 5: Folk Songs(Click here)


All images and recordings are made with children's and parents' permission; see individual pages for complete listing of names.
All material used from this website must credit me, the author, and name the site.  For more, see Copyright details.


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