Sounding Childhood

Part 5: Folk Songs

Folk Songs: An Introduction

Throughout any culture, folk songs play an important role: they are the music of the "folk," the farmers living in the countryside and working class living in cities, those who never learned to read, but who passed down their songs from generation to generation through oral transmission, changing as each singer provided their own variations!  Folk songs are the entertainment of earlier centuries, and so they often tell stories: stories of new seasons, of new or lost love, or a tragic death. Their longevity speaks to the popularity of them, both their socially relevant words and engaging tunes.  They represent what is important to a culture over time. 

Most English folk songs can be traced to well back to Elizabethan times and before. Victorians' contribution to folk songs is their new appreciation for songs "of the past" and of the "countryside", especially because much of their population was moving to the cities.  Many people, therefore, began to collect folk-song lyrics from folk singers. This began as early as the 1830s with such collections as William Chappell's A Collection of National English Airs (1838). By the end of the century a full-scale, Folk Song Revival had developed, especially for nationalistic reasons as they recognized folk songs to be their English musical heritage. Professional musicians like Cecil Sharp and Percy Granger now went out to the countryside and not only jotted down the words from singers but the music, too, discovering many variations to one song as it has been passed down differently in different communities. Ralph Vaughan Williams is perhaps the most famous of the Revivalists: he incorporated English folk tunes into major orchestral compositions like the English Folk Song Suite (1923) and the Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934) and Five Variants on Dives and Lazarus (1939).

The Community Choristers have learned four folk songs so far, folk songs that represent English, Irish, Scottish, and Polish folk songs or folk tunes.  See links below.  We will be adding more!  In the fall, we will be learning a folk song from China, "Jasmine's Flower," and others. 

Further Reading:

Clapp-Itnyre, Alisa.  Angelic Airs, Subversive Songs: Music as Social Discourse in the Victorian Novel.  Chapter Six: "Folk Music in the Novels of Thomas Hardy."  Ohio University Press, 2002.

Lloyd, A. L. Folk Song in England. New York, 1967.

Sing Sol Fa, A List of 100 (American) Folk Songs website


The Choir: Community Choristers

The Community Choristers is a new children's choir of Richmond, Indiana, which I started with hopes to make it a permanent Children's Choir to the community even beyond Richmond! To date, we have 35 singers, grades 2nd through 10th.  Join us if you live in the area! Contact Alisa Clapp-Itnyre at 

We have three concerts scheduled in 2024: We had a Spring Concert at Central United Methodist Church, Richmond (where rehearsals took place, as pictured here). We sang a Folk Song Suite and other songs (see the Program to the right and our soloists, listed there).  As part of the Spring series, some singers presented hymns at the church's service on May 19, 2024 (for more, and recording link, go to this page that is in the Hymn section of the Sounding Childhood site).  And we sang at the Leland Legacy for its senior residents on May 22nd (see pictures in the photo gallery, below).

Then we will then move to Indiana University East in the fall, with a concert scheduled there in October, and a final Christmas-carol concert scheduled for Richmond Civic Theatre's Community Christmas in December. 

(alphabetical) Andrei Aurea, Amira Baker, Vivian Beckerich, Anna Berfield, Allistair Berfield, Arianna Boehme, Aryanna Bonds, Emma Bowman, Charlie Christian, Madeleine Edwards, Molly Fuller-McCreery, Matilda Fuller-McCreery, Amaya Gray, Amari Gray,Jocelyn Gray, Alice Kostiuk, Aderyn Lemons, Hannah Mooney, Grace Parshall, Sophia Quiroz, Quinn Richwine, Aubree Rohrer, Sophia Royer, Greta Royer, Lily & Hope Royer, Sam Royer, Ayrabelle Smith, Sadie Southerland, Topanga Stingley, Josiah Weesner, Jesse Weesner, Stella West

Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, director
Aja Haley Smith, assistant
Vickie Martin, assistant
Shiyu Wang, pianist
Ron Itnyre, recording engineer
Location: Central United Methodist Church, Richmond, IN
Date: May 8, 2024

All pictures and audio recordings used with parental permission.

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