Polly Wolly Doodle

arr. by Paul Jennings

This familiar American song dates back to the Civil War where it was a favorite in minstrel shows. It was further popularized after the war by minstrel star, Billy Emerson. It came to be used as a "walk-around," often the finale of the show in which each performer would step out to do a verse, answered by the cast and audience, leading to a final verse with everyone joining in clapping and dancing.

Given the history of the song, we wanted to recreate the sound of the period by using an orchestration that might have been appropriate for a small theater orchestra of the day. You will hear a cornet and other period brass instruments, as well as banjo, fiddle (violin in this case), and clarinet. In smaller towns, this would have been an extravagant group in those days, but in the bigger cities such an orchestra was common.

The arrangement on the recording has room for five verses, and in this case, we use the third verse as an instrumental. You can use this verse to add lyrics of your own, or you can use it as a chance to perform simple movement. For instance, you might have your singers in a circle. For each four bar phrase they could walk or strut in a new direction, possibly clapping on beats two and four of each measure. For added complexity, clap over the head for one bar, then lower, towards the knees for the next. On the chorus, change this pattern to clapping on beats two and three in answer to "Fare thee well."

The verses we provide are intentionally the more comic ones, slightly adapted for today's language. We avoided the traditional lyrics with the singer visiting his gal Sal as they seemed less appropriate for younger singers. As with all of our music, we encourage you to use other lyrics if you like, and to adapt ours freely.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.