Songs from the 'Small Group Sing' sessions led by Shan during the Baring-Gould Song School.


This collection of songs includes several of those which are taught by Shan to students at the Baring-Gould Song School during the 'small group singing' sessions that take place throughout the week. The Song School is held in October each year and brings together a group of students to work on their singing (and, for some, instrumental technique) with tutors including ourselves as well as Course Director Paul Wilson of Wren Music and other members of the Wren team. We also invite a guest tutor each year. Past guest tutors have included John Kirkpatrick, Chris Coe, Martin Carthy, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Lester Simpson, and Louis Killen. In 2012 the Song School moved to the Community College in Okehampton, bringing all activities onto one site and within easy reach of shops and other facilities. For details of the next Song School, and of the Baring-Gould Folk Festival which precedes it go to

The songs presented here were chosen by the groups in each year from a selection offered to them by Shan, who took songs from the collection that she thought would be easy to learn in the short time available and would be enjoyable to sing. These are edited versions of the songs and we recommend that you should refer back to the manuscript copy to understand what changes have been made. Many of these songs have passed into the repertoire of songs that we sing together. We hope that you will enjoy singing them and to Song School students returning to find old friends - Welcome Back!

To view the sheet music for each song and to listen to it played, click on the title. The songs are presented using the Sibelius Scorch format used elsewhere on this site. If this is the first time you have tried to open one of these files you will need to download Scorch to view them - but that is easy - click the link and instructions will appear. Once you have done so the file should download and you can view the words and play the tune. You may need to adjust the playback speed for some of them. In each case I have enabled the option that lets you print the songs. You can also save them if you are a 'Sibelius' user.


The Buffalo  Ref: PC 2, 168 (201), Roud 1026

This song was collected by Baring-Gould from a number of singers with similar words, but we have chosen the tune which Baring-Gould and Frederick Bussell collected from Sam Fone of Mary Tavy on Michaelmas, 1894. There was a lot of discussion at the song school about changing the wording of the last verse. Our personal choice has been to make the change - if your own position favours slaughtering Native Americans then the original words are available in the Manuscripts.


The Dilly Song  Ref: PC 1, 165 (78), Roud 133

Many words have been written about the symbolism contained in 'The Dilly Song' and about its cousin 'The Twelve days of Christmas' so we won't look at that again here. This version was heard from a servant girl in Horrabridge, Devon. We know no more about how it came to Baring-Gould, which is a shame, since it is such a fine version.


The Everlasting Circle  Ref PC 1, 208 (104), Roud 129

A version of one of the songs that used to be sung around camp fires or on coaches when I was a boy. This came from James Parsons of Lew Down and John Woodridge of Thrushelton, both close to Baring-Gould's home in Devon. He published this song in his 'Book of Nursery Rhymes' and left out the circumstances of the child's conception. Here in the manuscripts we have franker record of the song as collected. We have reduced the length of the song by putting the stanzas in groups of three. It is still more than long enough! (but great fun to sing).


I Friend  Ref: PC 3, 245 (541), Roud 22770

Sent to Baring-Gould in 1896 by the Rev J. Hale-Parlby, who lived in Plymouth. This was, needless to say, a drinking song. The company would form a circle and each would pass the greeting from the friend on one side to that on the other until enough had been drunk, they fell off their chairs or just got bored. When singing this, we try to stop before any of those points are reached. Shan has also arranged the song as a round and this is the way we will often do this song in Folk Clubs.


I saw three ships  Ref: PC 3, 24 (406), Roud 700

This version of 'I saw three ships', was sent to Baring-Gould by Mr. Lewis Davis of Pinner, who had heard it sung by boatmen on the Humber.


I would that the wars  Ref: PC 2, 417 (366), Roud 2036

A version of a well-known folk song collected from Sam Fone in February 1893. This song is found on broadside ballads and there are more verses to be found - but this may be case where less is more.


May Day Carol  Ref: PC 1, 106 (47), Roud 305

Baring-Gould says that this song was "sung by children in Lew Trenchard, till about 30 years ago, (i.e. about 1860) when they ceased to come round on May morning." It was also collected by T.S. Cayzer on Dartmoor in about 1850 and this is the tune that he sent to Baring-Gould.


The Streams of Nancy  Ref: PC1, 190 (93), Roud 688

Collected from Matthew Baker from Lew Down, Devon this is a version of a song well known in the South-West and beyond. Another song that people have pondered the meaning of, though no definite conclusion has been reached except that it is a lovely song to sing.


The Wreck off Scilly   Ref: PC1, 120 (52), Roud 388

A great song about a shipwreck with a remarkable tune, taken down by Baring-Gould from James Parsons. The song is found on broadsides and in some the narrator does not survive the shipwreck. We like this version and have rationalised between us that though he survives, it is the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that leads to his parting from his Polly. Make your own mind up!


The Young Rival  Ref: PC 2, 20 (123), Roud 587

Another well known song but with some different phrases and a tune of its own. Collected from Roger Luxton of Halwell, Devon by Baring-Gould with Henry Fleetwood Sheppard. We have added the repeat of the final line - another great song to sing.