Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Alla fåglar kommit ren" - Swedish children's song to celebrate the birds in springtime

Heard on a CD of Swedish children's songs Nu ska vi sjunga (now we will sing) I picked up yesterday in the Colony Store at Bishop Hill. The melody is very familiar - but where have I heard it?

So today I've been Googling around ... still haven't figured out where I know it from ... but I've learned "Alla fåglar kommit ren" (all the birds come clean) is the Swedish translation of a German children's song Alle Vögel sind schon da (all the birds are pretty). It's widely known in northern and central Europe, and in addition to Sweden, it shows up in Norway as "Alle fugler små de er" (all the birds are small). The different lyrics in the first line appear to be for the sake of rhyme and meter in different languages - the gist of it is that it's spring and the birds have come back.

According to Wikipedia, Alle Vögel sind schon da is one of Germany's best-known children's songs celebrating spring. Lyrics in a poem by Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798–1874), published in 1835. Since 1884 it has been sung to a traditional melody that has been traced to the 1500s. Judging by what's available on YouTube, the Germans consider it primarily a children's song.

But in Sweden, it is also associated with with May Day, or a spring celebration the night of April 30 and morning of May 1 called Walpurgisnacht in German and Valborgsmässoafton in Swedish. In much of northern Europe, this celebration derives from a very old spring ritual, and it is marked by bonfires, dancing and a lot of partying. Very similar to the traditional May Day celebrations in English-speaking countries. In Sweden, it also coincides with school graduation - an occasion for more partying as well as choral singing in university towns. There are a couple of lovely choral arrangements on YouTube.

Stämningsfull Valborgseld med Körsång i Hagaberg (a Walpurgis' fire with choral singing at Hagaberg). Stämningsfull, according to the translator, can mean atmospheric or well-tuned in English, and this clip qualifies on both counts.

Some more YouTube clips:

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