I Wonder as I Wander

I Wonder as I Wander

"I Wonder as I Wander" is a Christmas carol written by John Jacob Niles based on a fragment of a folk song collected in 1933.


"I Wonder as I Wander" has its origins in a song fragment collected on July 16, 1933 by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles.Pen, Ron. "I Wonder as I Wander". "A Kentucky Christmas" (George Ella Lyon, editor). University Press ofKentucky (2003), [http://books.google.com/books?id=Lo592kNl9fkC&pg=PA200&sig=QAc2j_4KjPK6YrlVK7GocCE7c00 p200–201] . ISBN 0813122791.] Studwell, William E. "The Christmas Carol Reader". Haworth Press (1995), [http://books.google.com/books?id=lIduw73jiAsC&pg=PA111&sig=WCDKE-G-tRCH6Vb_hirzzfmRevc p111] . ISBN 1560249749.] Emmons, Shirlee & Wilbur Watkin Lewis. "Researching the Song: A Lexicon". Oxford University Press (2006), [http://books.google.com/books?id=xgCQOLBKm28C&pg=PA242&sig=RBl_7swo4oDOat5Alm1LhnNSXx4 p242] . ISBN 0195152026.] Niles, John Jacob. [http://www.john-jacob-niles.com/music.htm "I Wonder as I Wander".] John-Jacob-Niles.com.] While in the town of Murphy in Appalachian North Carolina, Niles attended a fundraising meeting held by evangelicals who had been ordered out of town by the police. In his unpublished autobiography, he wrote of hearing the song:The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with "three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea". (In various accounts of this story, Niles hears between one and three lines of the song.Stulken, Marilyn K. "With One Voice: Reference Companion". Augsburg Fortress (2000), [http://books.google.com/books?id=6PIJUrLZbUMC&pg=PA25&sig=XQumhUnR6nxrSGpqyF-h6v3KPOw p25] . ISBN 0806638435.] ) Based on this fragment, Niles composed the version of "I Wonder as I Wander" that is known today, extending the melody to four lines and the lyrics to three stanzas. His composition was completed on October 4, 1933. Niles first performed the song on December 19, 1933 at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. It was originally published in "Songs of the Hill Folk" in 1934.

Niles's "folk composition" process caused confusion among singers and listeners, many of whom believed this song to be anonymous in origin.Pen, Ron. "Introduction to the New Edition". "The Ballad Book of John Jacob Niles". University Press of Kentucky (2000), [http://books.google.com/books?id=JVKd4BvkNksC&pg=PR14&sig=B-YQv1ThR3THX_qYtQ_dJzH06-M p"xiv"] . ISBN 0813109876.] Pegolotti, James A. "Deems Taylor: A Biography". UPNE (2003), [http://books.google.com/books?id=n5G_Lqh3h4UC&pg=PA285&sig=lq0Mns-gCk5LDj5onKLZs-Uci2Q p285] . ISBN 1555535879.] Niles undertook lawsuits to establish its authorship and demanded royalties of other performers of the song.

etting and arrangements

"I Wonder as I Wander", since its collection, has always been sung to the melody published by Niles.Bradley, Ian. "The Penguin Book of Carols". Penguin (1999), p148. ISBN 0140275266.] According to academic and theologian Ian Bradley, the "clean, haunting melody...maintains the open-air atmosphere and sense of wistful wandering conjured up in the first line."

A notable recent choral setting by Swiss composer Carl Rütti has been performed at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Chapel, Cambridge. Of great interest is the setting for soprano and orchestra by Luciano Berio (1925-2003), from "Folk Songs (Berio)," 1964, no. 2: the entire song cycle was composed for, and recorded by, Cathy Berberian.


*1950 - Jo Stafford
*1953 - Burl Ives - "Folk Songs Dramatic and Humorous"
*1956 - Mahalia Jackson
*1964 - Luciano Berio - "Folk Songs"
*1966 - Joan Baez - "Noël"
*1967 - Barbra Streisand - "A Christmas Album"
*1981 - Philip Ledger and the King's College Choir - "Procession with Carols on Advent Sunday"
*1982 - Julie Andrews - "Christmas with Julie Andrews
*1985 - John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers - "Hurry to Bethlehem" (also featured on their album "Christmas Night")
*1987 - James Galway with the BBC Singers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - "James Galway's Christmas Carol
*1989 - The King's Singers - "A Little Christmas Music]
*1989 - Kathleen Battle - "A Christmas Celebration"
*1992 - Peter, Paul and Mary - "A Holiday Celebration"
*1994 - Eton College Chapel Choir (Rutti version)
*1996 - Vanessa L. Williams - Star Bright
*1999 - Jewel -
*1997 - Edward Higginbottom and the Choir of New College, Oxford - "Nativitas: A Celebration of Peace"
*2000 - Linda Ronstadt - a Merry Little Christmas
*2001 - Escorial Choir (Rutti version)
*2004 - Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys - Shepherds and Angels [http://theshop.gracecathedral.org/Shepherds_and_Angels_p/mus-009.htm]
*2005 - BBC Singers (Rutti version) - "One Star, at Last: Carols of Our Time"
*2007 - Woven Hand


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