Folk Song Suite

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Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams

N.B. The proper title of the work is Folk Song Suite, not English Folk Song Suite.

General Info

Year: 1924 / 2008
Duration: c. 11:25
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $85.00   |   Score Only - $13.50

For further availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


1. March, Seventeen Come Sunday - 3:25
2. Intermezzo, My Bonny Boy - 4:00
3. March, Folk Songs from Somerset - 3:45


Full Score
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet Solo
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet (doubling the Bass Saxophone)
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Bass Saxophone (doubling Contrabass Clarinet)
B-flat Cornet Solo-I-II
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in E-flat I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Percussion, 2-3 players, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbal
  • Snare Drum
  • Triangle


The older version published by Boosey & Hawkes is full of errata, both minor and major. The following errata applies to the 2008 revised edition published by Boosey & Hawkes and distributed by Hal Leonard.

In Score and Parts:

  • Oboe II, Mvt. 3, m.39, "and" of b.2: Should be written G.
  • Oboe II, Mvt. 3, m.92, "and" of b.2: Should be written B-flat.
  • E-flat Soprano Clarinet, Mvt. 3, m.32, "and" of b.2: Should be written D.
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet II, Mvt. 3, m.39, "and" of b.2: Should be written E.
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, Mvt. 3, 48, "and" of b.2: Should be written F.
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet III, Mvt. 3, 93, "and" of b.2: Should be written B-flat.
  • Horn in F I, Mvt. 1, m.124, b.1: Should be written C.
  • Horn in F II, Mvt. 1, m.116, b.2: Should be written A-flat.
  • Horn in F II, Mvt. 1, m.12: "and" of 2 should be written F.
  • B-flat Cornet Solo, Mvt. 1, m.97, b.2: Should be marked "p".
  • Tuba, Mvt. 2, mm.34–35: Should be slurred (to match other parts).
  • Percussion I-II, Mvt. 1, mm.55–57: Snare Drum and Triangle parts should be swapped.
  • Percussion I-II, Mvt. 1, mm.120-122: Snare Drum and Triangle parts should be swapped (similar to mm.55-57).
  • Percussion II, Mvt. 2, m.73: Eliminate cresc. marking.

See also Fennell article in Resources (below).

Program Notes

Folk Song Suite was commissioned by the band of the Royal Military School of Music. It was premiered on 4 July 1923, at Kneller Hall, H.E. Adkins conducting. In three movements, the suite contains many different folk songs from the Norfolk and Somerset regions of England, including Seventeen Come Sunday, Pretty Caroline, Dives and Lazarus, My Bonny Boy, Green Bushes, Blow Away the Morning Dew, High Germany, and The Tree So High. Historically, the suite is considered (along with Gustav Holst’s two suites for military band) to be a cornerstone work in the literature, and one of the earliest “serious” works for the wind band.

- Program Note by Nikk Pilato

English Folk Song Suite is a standard work for bands from one of the most significant composers of the early 20th century. Fortunately, the piece is playable by a wide range of performers: high school bands, honor bands, community ensembles, and secondary or primary college ensembles. As with other wind band works by this composer, the ensemble must approach articulations with lightness and buoyancy because thick scoring can lead to undue heaviness. Conductors should note a strong oboe or cornet is required for the exposed solo in the second movement. Additionally, a moderate amount of repetition in the work will require performers to capitalize upon all expressive opportunities to maintain musical interest throughout.

- Notes from Great Music for Wind Band

The English Folk Song Suite was written in 1923 and includes three movements. The first is a march entitled Seventeen Come Sunday and begins with the folksong of the movement's name with the melody in the woodwinds. It is followed by the folksong Pretty Caroline which features a solo clarinet and cornet, and the last melody in the first movement is Dives and Lazarus which features the lower instruments with the upper woodwinds playing against them.

The second movement is Intermezzo: My Bonnie Boy which opens with an oboe solo to the tune of My Bonnie Boy and is interrupted by the tune Green Bushes which is more upbeat and dance-like than the slow, emotional opening. The movement ends with a fragment of the original melody. The third movement is a march called Folk Songs from Somerset which opens with a light introduction of four measures before the first melody, the folk song Blow Away the Morning Dew, played by a solo cornet. The second melody, High Germany, is played by the lower instruments and transitions into The Tree So High' and John Barleycorn before repeating back to the beginning of the movement.

Historically, the piece is considered to be a cornerstone work in the literature, and one of the earliest “serious” works for wind band.

- Program Note from the Baldwin-Wallace College Symphonic Band concert program, 20 November 2015

The first movement is set as an English march, and is made up of three folk songs, I’m Seventeen Come Sunday, Pretty Caroline, and Dives and Lazarus. The first two folk songs deal with similar subject matter of military men falling in love with, and marrying, beautiful women. The styles of the two songs offset each other, the first is bouncy and jovial, the second legato and cantabile. The third folk song included in movement one is Dives and Lazarus. Lazarus repeatedly begs Dives, a rich man, for food but is denied. To portray the antagonism of the event, Vaughan Williams has set a firm duple meter melody in the low brass against a rigorous triple meter accompaniment in upper winds.

Both folk songs used in the Intermezzo deal with love betrayed, and Vaughan Williams’s keen sense of orchestration is on full display throughout this movement. My Bonny Boy begins the movement in a lonely F dorian with sparse accompaniment. The mood shifts slightly to the folk song Green Bushes set as a somewhat playful scherzando. The pace of this folk song belies the fact that the tonal center has remained F dorian, and thus never really feels happy or jovial.

The third movement, Folk Songs From Somerset, uses four different folk songs dealing loosely with unattainable love. Blow Away the Morning Dew, describes a country boy attempting to seduce a girl who quickly outwits him. The second folk song, High Germany, is about a young English woman’s lover and her three brothers being called off to war in Germany. Thirdly, Vaughan Williams modified a version of “The Trees They Do Grow High” which deals with a young woman who has been wed by her father to a much younger boy. The final folk song is John Barleycorn which is an allegory representing the harvesting of barley, and the imbibing of its final form (beer and whisky). accompaniment in upper winds.

- Program Note by Shawna Meggan Holtz for the University of Oklahoma Symphonic Band concert program, 3 October 2016

The original publication of this work contained a fourth movement, Sea Songs, which the publisher, Boosey & Hawkes, subsequently removed and published separately.


State Ratings

  • Alabama: AL Band Class A
  • Arkansas: Grade III
  • California: Grade V Class A
  • Florida: FBA Band Grade V -- (The Florida Bandmasters Association denotes this as "significant literature.")
  • Georgia: GA Band Grade V
  • Louisiana: BAND 2011 GRADE V
  • Maine: GRADE IV
  • Minnesota: Category I
  • Mississippi: MS BAND CLASSES 4A, 5A, & 6A
  • North Carolina: VI
  • New York: 20 05 CONCERT BAND LEVEL V
  • South Carolina: SC Band Grade V
  • Tennessee: Grade V
  • Texas: III (Any one mvt.)
  • Texas: Band Grade V.Complete
  • Wisconsin: Event 3000 Concert Band.Class B Std Rep


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Va.) Wind Ensemble and VCU Health Wind Ensemble (Brian Coffill, conductor) - 6 October 2023
  • Rouge River Winds (Toronto, Ont., Can.) (Pratik Gandhi, conductor) - 26 August 2023
  • Morningside University (Sioux City, Ia.) Wind Ensemble (Martin I. Gaines, conductor) - 2 April 2023
  • Wheaton College (Ill.) Symphonic Band (Brady McNeil, conductor) - 11 February 2023
  • West Valley Wind Ensemble (Sun City West, Ariz.) (Clark Chaffee, conductor) - 5 February 2023
  • Nordonia High School (Macedonia, Ohio) Wind Ensemble - 29 January 2023 (Severance Music Center, Cleveland)
  • California State University Fullerton Alumni Band (Mitch Fennell, conductor) - 15 January 2023
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Symphonic Band (Jerry Luckhardt, conductor) -- 18 October 2022
  • Kennesaw (Ga.) State University Wind Symphony (Daniel Lee, conductor) - 12 October 2022
  • Banda dell'Esercito Italiano (IRome) (Filippo Cangiamila, conductor) – 22 September 2022
  • Kentucky Virginia (Whitesburg, Ky.) Summer Winds (Richard Suk, conductor) - 14 June 2022
  • Avon Lake (Ohio) High School Symphonic Band (Joshua Brunger, conductor) – 10 May 2022
  • University of Louisville (Ky.) Symphonic Band (Rachel Wilson, conductor) - 29 April 2022
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Concert Band (Travis Higa, conductor) - 24 April 2022
  • Cornell College (Mt. Vernon, Iowa) Symphonic Band (Joshua W. Neuenschwander, conductor) - 15 April 2022
  • Delaware (Dover) Winds (Schyler Adkins, conductor) - 5 April 2022
  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (Jennifer Martin, conductor) – 19 March 2022
  • Stuttgart (Germany) Symphonic Youth Wind Orchestra (Alexander Beer, conductor) – 20 July 2021
  • Band of the Royal Military School of Music (London, Eng.) (B. Gubbings, conductor) - 4 July 1923 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

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