Sad love songs such as Molly Bawn (or Molly Ban) draw voice students to work hard to be expressive.
Young girls seem to be fascinated by the words and the mood of Molly Bawn; the song tells a story with such clear imagery: a young hunter, a swan, the white apron, the rain shower, the bush... and Molly Bawn going to her uncle's. (I am such a softy that occasionally I still am overcome by tears even as I sit at the piano, instructing a voice student.)
I first fell in love with this sad song when I heard Alison Kraus sing it (on her CD A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection) ... my simple 2-chord accompaniment attempts to capture some of the feeling of the arrangement used in her recording.
Molly Bawn has a range of only an octave plus one note, yet learning the melody requires a bit of work for beginning singers.
Just like a real story, each verse has words with different syllables, and the accent or emphasis will shift about. This is hard for young singers who are used to regular, metrical phrases.
So in order to sing this song convincingly, singers must go over and over each verse to craft it, allowing the emphasis of the words to match the musical emphasis, especially on beat one. The arrangement of the notes-to-words that I have here is only a match-up of the notes to verse one.
Alison Kraus sings Molly Bawn in a fairly low key, but some of my students have not been able to give the melody power down in a low register, so for them, I use a slightly higher setting to take advantage of a their voices. The main thing when singing this song is for the audience to actually be able to follow the story, so the words need to have clarity and volume!
This is a very simple arrangement of this song; I actually tend to embellish the chords here when I accompany students, filling in missing chord tones in the right hand, softly touching higher notes and octaves, playing lots of open 5ths in accord with the feeling of this folk tune. But if you understand how to use chords, you can already do this... if you don't do it easily, then an arrangement such as is written here will probably be more welcome to you!
I hope this song brings some heart-felt drama into your students' music-making!
Danielle: What a lovely, generous site! Many thanks from a fellow singer and music teacher in New York State. Loved the inclusion of the video for "The Ash Grove," a song I just recommended to an adult voice student today. I was pleased to be able to send her the link to not only the sheet music, but a charming performance of the song as well.
Krista: Thank you thank you thank you!! I have recently started my own vocal studio, and though I have studied music education for years in college, a private studio is a daunting task for me. Your site has made everything seem so simple and straightforward and has helped me to really get started. It is so comprehensive and well put together. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge so that music can be shared everywhere. :) Dana: Good for you! Yes, I know just what you mean. Every new endeavor requires a little bit of chutzpah -- not to say just brazening it out a bit, because you just can't be an expert at anything until you've done it for a while. We teachers have to learn how to teach... and you have to start somewhere.
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