Is there any folk viola music? If you play viola or play fiddle folk music, you might have wondered.
Some years ago I joined a folk group of fiddlers in UK and have been playing with them for some time.
them because I liked the music and wanted to try something new,
different from the classical music I used to play.
Also I wanted to learn play by ear. In fact folk players play without reading, which is something that most classically trained players cannot do.
Auld Lang Syne, Words by Robert Burns
Famous Scottish song for viola and piano in G major, viola and piano
Listen to My love is like a red, red rose,
Music on a poem by Robert Burns
Irish Tunes and Songs
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Black Velvet Band
The Irish Rover
Jug Of Punch
Girl I Left Behind Me
Seven Drunken Nights
The Wild Rover
Whiskey In The Jar
With the term "folk music" is
generally intended the music which is traditional, typical of a
country, the product of a community rather than of a professional
composers, so in most cases folk music is by "anonymous".
What we today call folk music was very familiar to "serious" composer (I mean those composers now famous as classical music composers) who took inspiration from it. Baroque suites were works inspired by folk dances of the time; Haydn, the viola player Mozart and more composers wrote ländler (the most common folk dance in Austria and other countries); the viola player Beethoven spent several years working for a Scottish publisher writing piano trio arrangements of Scottish folk music and planned to write similar arrangements of other countries' folk music. Brahms wrote his very famous Hungarian dances for piano and then for orchestra, the viola player Dvorak knew folk music and wrote his Slavonic dances, Bartok was the first composer able to actually record live folk music performed by Romanian village players and took inspiration from them, writing his orchestral Romanian folk dances. Vaughan Williams did the same with English folk songs and there are more examples.
Collections of folk viola sheet music
The following is a popular folk tune called Michael Turner's waltz but it also appears in Mozart's catalogue of works (K536), it's a trio and is nearly exactly the same tune, apart from a few notes.
Michael Turner's waltz
Back to folk viola music. So what I learned is that all this fiddle music was written down later by someone who wanted to pass on the tradition and there are many collections available.
What I do with the fiddle group is this:
I play the same melody doing some adjustments, changing octave here and there, basically whenever fiddles play on the E string I play an octave lower. These register changes sometimes require some other adjustments because I can't use two strings or an open string as they do.
Sometimes I can add some extra notes and play chords with the tune and in many cases the viola range enables me to play two versions of a tune in two different octaves (while fiddles can't). See Michael Turner's waltz, Fanny Power and Miss Rowan Davies in this page. I like this because the viola tone adds a very special touch to a bunch of fiddles which would be ear piercing otherwise and a bit monotone (just a viola player's opinion).
The Irish folk tunes
Sportsman's hornpipe and The road to Lisdonvaarna
I think being able to play different styles enriches the player, you too could try it.
Fiddle music is quite simple and can be useful for beginners to learn new tunes, although advanced player can play it skilfully and make it really impressive. Because of the octave change that breaks the melody, some arrangements work very well when played in a group but I don't like them in a solo context.
To add variety to your repertoire, you can mix different genres and styles of music. Here are some folk tunes that sound nice played solo on the viola and that I play: English, Scottish, Irish, American, songs and dances (waltzes, jigs, etc.), including some of the most famous ones.
You can also see some of them in the videos on this page. The following three videos are of three tunes that go well together, watch them in succession.
Another suitable folk viola tune: The greenwood tree
The south wind
The Irish folk tune Fanny Power
by Turlough O'Carolan
played on the mellow viola
Here is a list of some tunes and songs that sound
great on a solo viola:
The greenwood tree, The south wind, Fanny Power, Michael Turner’s waltz, Iron legs, Sportsman’s hornpipe, The road to Lisdoonvarna, Greensleeves, Ye banks and braes, Skye boat song, My Bonnie, My love is like a red, red rose, Ashokan farewell, Inneshere, Old Danny boy, Carrickfergus, Philadelphia soldier's joy, Bonaparte’s retreat, Miss Rowan Davies, Dark island, Sally Gardens, The land of my fathers (Welsh National anthem).
a melancholic folk viola song
if you've decided you'd
like to play some folk viola music, listen to some folk music (better
if it's live), join a band, play by ear.
Here you can download free the tune book of the folk band I play with, the Oxford Fiddle Group. The tunes are written in treble clef, but viola players can read it. Here's the list:
Ae Fond Kiss; Arkansas Traveller; Ashokan Farewell; Auld Lang Syne; Banshee, The; Barrowburn; Bonaparte's Retreat; Bonny At Morn; Bonny Breast Knot, The; Bonny Kate; Brenda Stubbert's; Brosna Slide; Butterfly, The; Bwlch Llanberis; Calliope House; Calum's Road; Came Ye O'er Frae France?; Carrickfergus; Cliffs Of Moher, The; Cock of the North (A); Cock of the North (G); Dance Ti' Thy Daddy; Dark Island; Dashing White Sergeant; Dennis Murphy's Polka; Eighth Of January; Far From Home; Ferry, Da; Foxhunter's, The; Frank's Reel; Ganivelle; Give Me Your Hand (Tabhair dom do lámh); Greenwood Tree, The; Hamnataing; Hundred Pipers; Hut on Staffin Island, The; Iron Legs; Kerry Polka 1; Kerry Polka 2; L'Inconnue; Lay Dee At Dee; Le Canal En Octobre; Liberty; MacArthur Road; Mairie's Wedding; Margaret's Waltz; Mason's Apron; Merry Blacksmith, The; Michael Turner's Waltz; Midnight On The Water; Miss McLeod's ; Miss Spence's; Molly Oxford; Music For A Found Harmonium; Old Joe Clark; Old Mother Oxford (Headington); Out On the Ocean; Over the Waterfall; Pearl Wedding, The; Philadelphia Soldier's Joy; Princess Royal (Abingdon); Road To Lisdoonvarna, The; Rocky Road To Dublin, The; Rusty Gulley, The; Ryan's Polka; Schottische de Virmoux; Shetland Molecule; Si Bheag Si Mhor; Slockit Light, Da; Soldier's Joy; Solstice, The; South Wind, The; Spootaskerry; Sportsman's Hornpipe; Star Above The Garter, The; Staten Island; Stool Of Repentance, The; Tom of Oxford; Waiting For The Federals; White Cockade, The; Ye Banks and Braes.
A contemporary folk tune:
Miss Rowan Davies by Phil Cunningham
Otherwise, if you want the "dots", there are a lot of collections of folk viola sheet music. Here below you can also find links to pages to download free MIDI files, or to get some Mp3 files and recordings of folk viola music.
Some of the following files, not all, are compressed (zipped) files. To unzip them, here you can download Winzip
To download the file, click on it and then choose Save.
Non zip files:
To hear the file, click on it.
To download the file, right click on it and then choose Save target as...
Cello suite n. 3 in Eb major BWV 1009; Download free MIDI file
Cello suite n. 5 in Eb major BWV 1011; Download free MIDI file
Cello suite n. 6 in Eb major BWV 1012; Download free MIDI file
The popular Irish folk song Sally Gardens played on the mellow viola
Do you really need a piano? You can do very well without it or, if you want company, try a cello
in Very easy collection for solo viola
Download free MIDI files Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file
Auld Lang Syne, Words by Robert Burns
Famous Scottish song for viola and piano in G major, viola and piano; Download free MIDI file Buy sheet music, pdf with Mp3 file
music is coming all the
come and visit again for more free music download, more free
Here is a link to a great website about folk music, where you can find a huge number of free tunes (in treble clef, but most viola players should know it), lists of sessions, events around the world, discussions, links: The Session.
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