arr. Paul Jennings
America has spawned a lot of great nonsense songs, and this one is a doozy! Last year when I put out a call for tunes that teachers wanted to see in Music K-8, Beth Spreen Jahn suggested this one with much enthusiasm, and I'm so glad she did.
While this song has been a staple for folk singers for well over a century, it has roots in the Scottish Highlands in the song "Wee Cooper O'Fife," a somewhat nastier song about a cooper who mistreated his wife because she would not cook, clean, and sew. In "Risseldy, Rosseldy," our couple starts newly married, but we gradually learn that the wife of the person singing the song is either lazy or more likely separated from reality a bit. And the song gets a little crazier as it moves on.
Of course, the real fun in the song is the totally nonsense chorus to the tune. You can listen to the pronunciation on the recording, but note that "willowby, wallowby" are pronounced "will-oh-bee, wall-oh-bee" and "mow" here rhymes with "how." We recommend that you practice the chorus separately, at a slower tempo for precision, then speeding it up until they have it at full performance tempo.
And speaking of the chorus, you will note that after measure 35, the singers have the option of singing high Ds in the last half of several bars. While this is strictly optional, it will sound great if some of your singers can add these to the performance.
Our recording has a full orchestra backing your singers, and they sound great, building and getting a little wilder as the song moves forward. The last verse and chorus are a riot, and we were informed by some of our studio players that we really pushed their technical abilities. That's fun... these are really top players!
One last thing – There is a great children's book by John M. Feierabend based on this song that is a good companion for your study of the song with your classes. You can find it at MusicK8.com and through many other booksellers.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.