Folksong Duets
for Treble Instruments (2012)
by Ron Hannah

  • Alla Fiera dell'Est (Italian)
  • Dugai: Land of My Mother (Mongolian)
  • Huron Carol (Canadian)
  • Little Cabbage (Chinese)
  • Pita de Cano (Guatemalan)
  • The Half Moon Shines in the Sky (Uyghur, Western China)

     Here is a collection of folksong arrangements for treble instruments, six at the moment but it may grow. I have been encouraged over the years to do things with folk tunes and Oriental instruments by my good friend in China, Liu Qin. He used to send me scans of songs, and when I lived in that country he introduced me to local cultural features, performers, poetry, temples, and the like. I even arranged a couple of Canadian folksongs at his behest for a Chinese traditional orchestra, whose

conductor bestowed upon me a Chinese name - this was a great honour. As well, the musical result over the years has been my
Symphony on Chinese Folktunes, 5 Melodies for Solo Erhu, Chinese Impressions-Theme & Variations for erhu and guzheng, and now this set. Liu Qin has even made efforts to advertise and make my music known in China. I have no idea how successful he has ultimately been, but I do get a good deal of Chinese spam now (I think it's spam).

     The astute observer will see from the list above that not all the songs are Chinese. I have branched out and sought songs from all over that appeal to me, some recommended by friends others located on my own. I might be drawn to a rhythmic quirk, a sensuous turn of phrase, or a sad minor-key mood. It's very subjective, like all music. My arrangements are often quite contrapuntal, giving each player a chance to play the melody, and their harmonies are largely diatonic or modal, with modern twists that I hope you might enjoy.

     Each arrangement fills a single page only, and the pages are unnumbered. They may be played in any order. The original of each song is written at concert pitch, but I have also prepared versions in F, B flat, G, and E flat. The plan at first was that they be played by erhu (whose bottom note is D above Middle C) and zhonghu (bottom note G below middle C), and they never exceed these lower limits. Such ranges, of course, are convenient for many Western treble instruments as well. The list of instruments in addition to those already mentioned that may play these duets, in their original or transposed versions, is in fact quite extensive: violin; viola; soprano, alto or tenor recorders and saxophones; flute; alto flute; oboe; English horn; clarinet; trumpet; French horn; and maybe some others I haven't thought of.

     As a sampler, you may download the score in C of the 'Huron Carol' by clicking above (I chose the Canadian example because, hey, I'm Canadian). I ask only that if you decide to perform any of them, that you inform me promptly so that I can keep this website up-to-date. They may also be obtained through the Canadian Music Centre.