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    Term One Folk Song: The Jam on Gerry’s Rocks

    July 28, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I have begun researching the folk song for Term One. Folk songs in general are really growing on me. When I took my son to the dentist this morning, the office was quiet, unlike most dental offices which play elevator music. However, I now know that it is quiet so that the dentist himself can provide the entertainment. He sung a rousing folk song to my son, who was quite thrilled. If I keep teaching folk songs to the children, perhaps some day they might sing along during a cleaning!


    According to one source, the song describes a situation in which

    Young Monroe and his crew do not wish to work on Sunday, but when a log jam forms, they turn out. The jam breaks and all are cast into the water, with foreman Monroe being drowned. In some accounts, his sweetheart dies for love and is buried with him.

    We already read one of the original circa-1800’s tales of Paul Bunyan, so that should make whoever remembers {only my oldest, I’m sure} a bit prepared for the logging imagery.

    I was going to post the sheet music, but this time I found it easily accessible online. It is not a full piano piece, but it’ll work fine as we are trying to learn to sing them a capella. The sheet music only contains the first verse, but the complete lyrics can be found here.

    Personally, I think we will skip the last three verses or so, ending the song at the death of the hero, rather than going into the death of his lady love. This is really for the sake of expediency as it takes me many weeks to teach a song to such a young group.

    There are actually two known melodies for this song. I like this one, personally, but if I had older children I would probably attempt learning both, just for fun.

    For those of you wondering why we sing these songs {or needing a reminder, like I often do when I get into efficiency mode}, here is a bit from the Ambleside website:

    There is a wealth of rich material in folksongs. There are songs about historical and mythical characters, there are songs that go with the history we study in school, there are songs that, like the poetry of the day, give the feel and flavor of the time or culture–a very important goal in a CM education. Folksongs do this in a unique and special way.


    Folk songs are one part of a liberal education. Besides giving us some feel for the time and culture they represent, they are fun to sing. Developed by the people for the people, they are singable, useful for delight and enrichment in the bathtub, in the shower, while rocking a baby to sleep, traveling in a car, washing dishes, cleaning out the car. They are accessible to all of us–no externals necessary {no instruments, no lessons, no accompaniment required}. More of us should sing, and if we start this when our children are young, then when they are grown, they will feel comfortable with their own voices.

    There is actually a lot worth reading on that Ambleside page, plus links to folk song resources.

    We also sing hymns. For now, we all sing the melody. I’d love to sing in at least two-part harmony when the children are older. Ambleside has assigned hymns, and I love their selection, but our children are so young that I am still working on {1} perfecting their ability to sing the hymns we sing in church, and {2} perfecting their ability to sing the hymns their father often sings with them or to them. So, for Term One, we will be learning Jesus Paid it All, which is a song Siah sometimes sings to them.

    This year, we will be reviewing a song each day, and have one day set aside for learning new songs. I will alternate hymns and folk songs, but this way I think we are less likely to lose old knowledge.

    There is nothing like hearing their little voices lifted in song while they play outside later in the day, especially when one of those voices is only two-years-old!

    This recording is of the other tune, but I still thought I’d post it because he explains a bit about the logging vocabulary:

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Rahime July 29, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    wow. cut and mangled on the beach…. wow. sounds like a good song for a little boy. 🙂

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