Seven Summer Songs

Song cycle for unison children’s voices and instruments


20 minutes




Commissioned by





The songs are intended for performance by children between the ages of about eight and eleven: the unison melodies lie easily within the range of young children’s voices. Performed as a set, the songs make an attractive concert item lasting approximately 20 minutes. Individual songs may equally well be used as classroom material which can link with topic-work, develop singing and instrumental skills and introduce pupils to a number of simple musical concepts.

The accompaniments are written for a selection of pitched and unpitched classroom instruments and employ simple melodic and rhythmic ostinato patterns. The following instruments are indicated in the score, though teachers are free to substitute other instruments as available (in the first performance, violins were used in some numbers instead of recorders):
Pitched Percussion: soprano glockenspiel, alto glockenspiel, alto xylophone, tenor xylophone, bass xylophone, chime bars
Unpitched Percussion: suspended cymbal, tambourine, maracas, bass drum, tam-tam (gong), four tabors (drums) of different sizes, metal pail, rainstick bellows, balloon.
Recorders (descant or tenor are optional and double the vocal melody).
The piano accompaniment is straightforward and may be handled by a player of moderate ability. The right hand plays the melody line while the left hand doubles the part played by the pitched percussion instruments.
Depending on the resources available the songs may be effectively performed by:
1. Voices plus the full complement of classroom instruments and piano;
2. Voices accompanied by piano only;
3. Voices and piano, with the addition of as much pitched or unpitched percussion as possible.


1. Grandma’s Farm
2. By the Burn
3. Hay-Making
4. Milking the Cow
5. Pony
6. The Ghost
7. Going Home


Composer Notes

Seven Summer Songs is set on Grandma’s farm – somewhere outwith Kirkwall or Stromness, perhaps even on one of the North Isles. This forms the scene for the hero’s or heroine’s annual break, though it’s not all leisure – participation in the daily work of a farm is expected, including such chores as milking and hay-making, but leaving enough time for nature-obervation and philosophy by the burn, and for being scared by a ‘ghost’ in the farmhouse.

The songs are scored for unison chorus and percussion with piano, and are dedicated to the pupils of the participating schools.

Programme Notes

Short Note by Paul Griffiths

These songs for young children to sing and play make up a linked sequence of holiday memories set at ‘Grandma’s farm’ on an Orkney island — memories of work (hay-making, milking the cow), memories of fun, memories of nature, and what begins as a ghost story but turns out quite safely.


First Performance

Papdale Primary School, Kirkwall, Orkney (at the St Magnus Festival)

Friday, 18 June 1993

Pupils of Burray, Holm and Papdale Primary Schools