Green Bushes, 
an English Folk Song

Green Bushes is a vibrant and beautiful folk song from England...your voice students will enjoy this free vocal sheet music! 

This little song is very English sounding.

You'll hear snatches of it from time to time in movies set in England, such as Jane Austen's Emma (A&E, 1997)with Kate Beckinsale as Emma, not the better-known version with Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma .

English folk song Green Bushes

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Like so many cute British songs, this one starts with "As I was a-walking one morning..."

A good song for beginners

I like to use this folk song with beginners, because the vocal range stays comfortably low, yet there is one high note and two phrases that arch nicely, with opportunity for expressive phrasing.

And the challenges in this little song are...

Breathing.  And a "twisty, turn-y melody" as I like to tell my singers.

Green Bushes presents breathing challenges for the beginning singer. The lines move along so quickly, with so little time to snatch a breath, that the singer must plan carefully and pay attention!

Where should the breaths be?

Ideally, the singer's first breath inside the song would be after "nightingales sing."

But in actual practice, the rising notes at the end of that phrase are hard to execute with ENERGY for a beginning singer when his or her air supply is almost exhausted.

The problem compounds with the LONG phrase which comes immediately afterwards: "I spied...so sweetly sang she." That phrase should NOT be broken up, or the song will sound choppy!

Here is the song with a simple accompaniment:

Free folk song Green Bushes

Please scroll down the page for the download links.

Catch breaths

Therefore, in my opinion, the singer should take a quick breath in the very first line between the words "spring" and "for to".

Though it is an extremely quick breath and will sound like a gasp unless carefully executed, it will result in less of a "winded" feeling at the end of each verse (an out-of-breath feeling which accumulates and makes the song tiring for the singer).

Besides, quick, silent breathing is excellent training for young singers!

Make them do it -- it will probably take LOTS of repetition to perfect it and keep them timely on the beat.

What kind of accompaniment works with this song?

For a different texture each verse, let the simple LH (left hand) accompaniment drop down an octave, then come back up on the next verse. I suggest making the chords light and quick, especially down low, so the piano doesn't overwhelm your singer.

If you have questions about the key signatures, read the following exchange:

Jessica:

I do love your site, I just found it today and many of the pieces and links are quite helpful. I was looking through a few beginning voice pieces and thought I might shoot you a line...

Green Bushes, you call in the key of E but it is marked for the key of A. The chords in the song support this, starting on the V and going to the IV, even though the I is never played.

Thought you might want to know, or maybe I'm just being a "Key Signature Nazi" LOL. Thanks again!

Dana:

Hi, Jessica,

Yes, I see what you mean, but that particular piece, like many English folk songs, is a bit of a puzzle if you only think in terms of "major" and "minor".  It's in the Mixolydian mode -- the scale sound you get if you play from "G" to "G" on the piano without using the F# (sharp).

So, yes, it isn't really in A, of course, but neither does it ever use the D# that the key of E requires.

Idecided I didn't want to keep making the 7th step of the scale an accidental with a constantly-recurring natural sign, as that can make for hard reading. So what we have here is a bit of a compromise!

I think I'll post this note with the music, as others may have had the same thought occur to them.

Thanks for writing! 





The links for the lead sheet PDFs:


Download printable English folk music in key of D 


Download English folk song Green Bushes in key of E (shown above) 



The links to the song PDFs with piano accompaniment:


Download song with chord accompaniment in the key of D (shown)


Print out English folk song in the key of E 





More Folk & Traditional Songs

Ae Fond Kiss - not strictly a folk melody, but it is old - and very lovely!

Ash Grove - an elegant melody that sounds more classical than folk, the lyrics are old-fashioned and poignant

Cat Came Back (for early singers) - a fun and silly song that can be pared down to JUST 5 NOTES for kids who have trouble matching pitch, there is much repetition in the melody (good for finding pitches)

Colorado Trail - a genuine cowboy song, just one verse, surprisingly lovely

Down by the Salley Gardens - this pretty song from England is a setting for a poem by William Butler Yeats about trying to hurry love

Erie Canal - a vigorous minor melody that kids like, with lots of repeating phrases

Green Bushes - a fast, light, pretty melody that speaks of false-hearted love, and feels very "English" in both lyrics and chord progressions

Grenadier and the Lady - Number One with me!  So beautiful, somewhat sad. Lots of opportunities for expressive singing.

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier - Lovely.  Important for breath control and learning to mold a phrase.

Lavender's Blue, a pretty song that is VERY simple to sing!  Perfect for young girls.

Loch Lomond, the most famous song of all from Scotland.  Still beautiful.

Mari's Wedding - lots of energy in this Scottish tune, which sounds great with guitar and fiddle backup

The Minstrel Boy - though rather difficult with its long phrases, this Irish song about the love for one's country is very moving and beautiful

Molly Bawn - So sad, but so IRRESISTIBLE.  Lovely and evocative, and requiring good air support, it is educational as well as being satisfying to the musical soul.

Muss i denn or Abschied (Wooden Heart) - from Germany by way of Elvis, an adorable folk tune!

Once I Had a Sweetheart - another sad, pretty, and image-arousing song, once sung by Joan Baez

Parting Glass - There are many versions of this GREAT Irish melody.  Download mine free, then check out others!

Scarborough Fair - an old favorite from England, still lovely

She Moved Through the Fair - a strange, shifting melody, with almost creepy lyrics that will haunt you

Shenandoah - So pretty, and genuinely American.  Long phrases, good breath control practice.

Skye Boat Song - a singable old Scottish song with a great tune about the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden

Spanish Ladies - a minor key sea chanty that swings energetically along - boys like singing it too!

The Spanish Lady - Upbeat and energetic, this song is fun to perform with a group.

Star of the County Down - LOTS of fun to sing and play!  An excellent ensemble piece.

Waltzing Matilda - an unusually pretty melody from Australia; you know this one!  Very popular with kids.

The Water is Wide - a very pretty song about disappointed love.  You might have sung this one in high school!

White, Orange and Green - though not widely known, this charming melody about fighting for the right to carry the flag of Ireland has stirring lyrics and soaring phrases. A favorite of my vocal & guitar students.








The Adventures of Tonsta, Volume 1, is a book about a young boy travelling over mountains and fjords from village to village, encountering trolls and helping folk in distress.

The Adventures of Tonsta

A perfect read aloud storybook
for little boys or girls. 

The Adventures of Tonsta highlight the travels of a very young boy with a good heart, who goes about helping folk in trouble.  

With a red cap on his head and a sack of tools slung over his shoulder, Tonsta seems to meet people in distress wherever he goes.

Lots of trolls in this book - including one who gives him a Christmas gift!

Available at Amazon





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