Bonnie Rideout and the Scottish Folk Song
Give Me Some of That Elbow Room Please!
Until I researched Scottish music for a school project, I never realized how pervasive this music is in American culture. They're almost all familiar. I hum and sing along with them and I'm having a good ol' time! So many of these songs are blended into our nursery rhymes. You hear so many of them in the background of movies and shows.
When I taught my students to sing these songs, they almost loved to sing them as much as singing Jingle Bells. That's saying a lot!
In this article, I introduce six songs that I feel hit the mark for my elementary students. I have examples in notation, recorded examples from various artists, and I highlight one of my favorite Scottish music collections.
Gi'me Elbow Room the Album
While looking for quality recordings of Scottish folk songs, I lucked out finding this album. Not only are the songs authentic, but her arrangements are the perfect balance of the old folk song with original instrumentation and a modern twist that kids would enjoy. The production is a loving mish-mosh of folk songs, funny anecdotal songs and serious poetry. The children singing in the recording sound like real collaborators in the arrangement instead of just an add on or afterthought.There are so many good gems in this collection. Here, I've described a few.
I devised movements for Gi'me Elbow Room; as we listen, we move our elbows for the chorus and mime the instrument in each verse. The Hen’s March is expertly performed on the violin with beautiful hen sounds produced with bowing and plucking and picking and sliding. Hurry Bury is a spirited and humorous song about how everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
Gi'Me Elbow Room
Includes Have You Ever Seen a Lassie and My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. You can also get this album on MP3
Who is Bonnie?
Bonnie Rideout was born and raised in Michigan. Her Scottish descent was an important part of her family's heritage and her own identity. She and her relatives played music together often and Bonnie blossomed as a violinist; playing both Scottish folk and classical music. After studying at University, she went out to become a recording artist that's traveled and performed here and in Scotland. Her breakout album was called A Scottish Christmas.
Children singing while playing the game. Great music field work by Alan Lomax
Bonnie and Laddie
My Bonnie and Have You Ever Seen a Lassie (Laddie)?
This song was written around the 1700's. There are suggestions that it alludes to 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie who was exiled after their defeat in battle during the Jacobite rebellion. The meaning was disguised as a love song and remains so today. In my music class we would sing the song and have several students on one side and a girl on the other (Bonnie). The rug between them was the vast ocean. As we sang 'Bring back,' Bonnie would pretend to cross the ocean on a boat. Her family and friends see her from afar and wave to her and then give her a hug once she reached the shore.
Have You Ever Seen a Lassie? This song shares a melody with The More We Get Together and Auch du lieber Augustin. It was first recognized in America, however is believed to be of Scottish immigrant origin and it was sung in the Appalachians.
You Take the High Road
This song is about the rebellion of the Scottish clans of Loch Lommond against the British around 1749 during the Jacobite Rebellion. This lament is about their defeat.
Auld Lang Syne
Old, Long Ago
The title is in the original Lowland Scottish dialect which translated means 'Old Long Ago.' The lyrics are by Robert Burns in 1788. Below I have the English adaption.
Auld Lang Syne
Alley Alley O - The Big Ship Sails
Alley Alley O
This is a popular street game song. It's one of the highlighted songs in the album Singing in the Streets collected by Alan Lomax. I read from rhymes.org and theguardian.com that the song possibly pertains to the Manchester, England canal becoming newly open to ships. It is also a 'thread the needle' game which we played in class.
Dance To Your Daddy
You Shall Have a Fishie
This was originally an English nursery-folk song, but was also sung in Scotland. Very lilting, almost has a medieval quality to it.