Danny Boy

Audio Sample

Danny Boy

Composer Irish Folksong
Arranger/Editor Gwyn Arch
Voice/Instrument SSAA + PIANO
Difficulty Unrated

RECORDING: Performed by Basingstoke Ladies Choir, Conducted by Margaret Brackenborough


Also known as The Londonderry Air, this lovely melody needs little introduction. The usual assumption that the song is about a girl who is sad that her boyfriend is going away and pleads with him to come back is probably not correct. More likely it is the boy's mother. In the second verse she tells us she will have died before he returns.

The history of this song is particularly interesting. For a start, Danny Boy is one of dozens of songs composed to the same tune. The words were written by an English lawyer, Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929), who was also a songwriter and radio entertainer. In 1910 he wrote the words and music for an unsuccessful song he called Danny Boy. In 1912 his sister-in-law in Colorado (USA) sent him a tune called the Londonderry Air which was unknown to him. She had (supposedly) heard an Irish immigrant singing it during the Colorado gold rush. Weatherly noticed that the melody fitted his Danny Boy lyrics perfectly, so he published a revised version of the song in 1913. Weatherly never visited Ireland, possibly because he was too busy writing other songs. There are said to be over 3000 of them, the best known being Roses of Picardy and The Holy City. He also translated opera libretti and published quantities of verse and children's books. .

The melody is thought to be very old. It first appeared in print in 1855 in a collection of Irish melodies called Ancient Music of Ireland. It was supplied to the collector by a lady from County Londonderry (in Northern Ireland) but without a title. She claimed she had written down the tune from the playing of a wandering piper. So Londonderry Air it became and sometimes Air from County Derry.

Danny Boy has appealed to recording artists from all over the world, particularly the USA.



Printed Copy



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