On Joy, Heritage, and Community: Folk Songs

Folk songs are an important aspect of a Charlotte Mason education, but often, like music in any school, it gets pushed aside, considered just extra stuff, or forgotten altogether. Wendi Capehart, a member of the AmblesideOnline Advisory, who passed away earlier this year, was a great champion.of learning and singing folk songs from all over the world. Her demonstration of the joy of singing these old songs had a great impact on many who were at the AO Camp Meeting in 2019.

Folk songs come under a lot of attack these days with their seemingly non-PC words and sentiments. Recently a public school music teacher told me about the list that came from the state teachers’ association that told of the songs they were to pull from the curriculum. I’ve seen piano teachers ‘canceling’ whole method series because of a few songs in them. Although there may be some cause, I think they’ve gone too far, and there is a great loss to our children and our culture.

Folk songs bring so much joy when singing alone or with others, small group or large. They lift our spirits. Even nonsense lyrics. Especially nonsense lyrics. I wish you could have been in that room of 400 as Wendi taught The Happy Wanderer in 2019. The room buzzed with delight as we sang Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha . Three years later that song was still ringing in the heart of someone in that audience that day as she climbed some mountains in Switzerland with her daughter.

Folk songs connect us to the past and how people lived and tell us of their joys and sorrows. They connect us to past generations of our own families. In my family and my husband’s family there are many songs they are still sung that can be traced back to great-great-grandparents. They connect you with the past in general, and specifically with your own heritage.

Folk songs bring people together. One of the saddest things about our current culture is the loss of coming together to sing. For fun. For joy. For community.

But sometimes you find out it isn’t all lost. Sometimes you find out that out there in the regular world family is still sharing songs. And then people meet who know the same old song, and spirits are lifted. Here’s a story I heard today from a mother who uses AmblesideOnline with its selections of Folk Songs. I share it with you with her permission:

After running errands, I stopped at a local coffee shop on the way home. The kids had been really helpful and well behaved, so I decided to treat them with peppermint hot cocoas.

The young lady at the window flatly told me the total, and I handed over my debit card. As she reached to take it, I noticed the tattoo on her arm.

” Is that a fox?” I asked.

Instantly a smile lifted the corners of her mouth, and a soft look came into her sad eyes. “Yeah. I just got it to honor my grandpa after he died. He used to sing me this song about a fox who went out on a chilly night. He would sing it all the time. We were really close.”

“I know that song!” My son exclaimed from the backseat. Then the kids all began to sing. The girl joined in on the first “Town-oh”, singing loudly. Her co-workers paused what they were doing and watched.

When the song ended, the car behind us clapped.

The girl with the fox tattoo went back to work, but she was smiling now. Who would have thought that this folk song would be such a blessing! You never know how this broad education is going to help make new connections!

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