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SSA or SSAA: Work songs

Thank you to all who responded to my query with suggestions and even MP3 files!
Here is a compilation of the replies.


I have composed "Ploughing on Sunday", a
setting of Wallace Stephens' poem. It is for
trebel chorus (SA), horn and piano.
Read the poem
and see if it relates closely enough to your theme.
You may find it a little indirect. I originally wrote it
for children's chorus; there have been a couple
fo perfomance by women. Easy. Duration: 2 1/2
minutes. Let me know if you
care to have a score and a recording.

Brian Holmes


Old Grandma and Punching the Dough by Alice Parker on Treble Clef.
Sold individually, but part of a group called women of the plains.
Very very wonderful arrangements of American folk songs.

have fun!

Lisa M. Fredenburgh, D.M.A.
Director of Choral Activities
Meredith College, Raleigh, NC 27607
National Chair, ACDA Women's Choirs Repertoire and Standards

(919) 760-8577 o
(919) 760-2359 f
Hi, Susan,

Our spring concert, here in St. Marys, will be "Whistle While You Work," and I have collected quite a few items on that theme. Of course, our voicings include everything from unison to SATB and our choirs range from ages 5 to 25, so they aren't all suitable for women. I've had no trouble coming up with unison material for the training choirs, or SATB stuff for the youth choir. SSA voicing has been the hardest to find. But here are a few titles that might suit you:

The Spinning Wheel - Mark Sirett - SSA - ECS 64161

I Meant to Do My Work Today - J Youtz - 2 part - Pavane Publishing P1122 (There is a more difficult SSA setting of this text by Deen E. Entsminger, but I went for the simpler one)

Operator (as recorded by the Manhattan Tansfer) arr. Kirby Shaw. Hal Leonard now has an SSA voicing.
The Auctioneer, arr. by Kirby Shaw, and published by Hal Leonard. The only treble voicing available is SA.

Soran Bushi (Japanese Fisherman's Song from Hokkaido) There's an a capella SSA setting of this by Wendy B. Stuart, published by Plymouth.

Tell Me, Lovely Shepherd - Oxford has a lovely 2-part setting of this great solo by William Boyce. OM19

Chim Chim cher-ee - Shawnee published an SSA voicing, arranged by Harry Simeone. for the children, I've chosen an easier 2-part arrangement by Cristi Cary Miller.

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy - SSA arrangement by Ed Lojeski - Hal Leonard

Donkey Riding - lots of setting, my favourite being the John Clements SA one. Oxford T52

There have got to be lots of my love is gone for a sailor songs in SSA!

Our opening song will be "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It's off to work we go" which I will arrange from an old SATB score I have here.

We'll close with "Whistle While You Work," also arranged from an old POP SATB score I have.

If you received any other good titles from other sources, I'd be interested in seeing them!

Eileen Baldwin
Artistic Director,
St. Marys Children's Choirs and Festival Youth Singers
P.O. Box 1895,
St. Marys, Ontario, Canada
choir website:
choir phone: 519 284 8009
personal phone: 519 284 3242

One of my groups (the Orange County Women's Chorus) did a program about


years ago entitled "Goddesses and Other Working Women." I'm pasting the

program below; maybe it'll help! Though I'm drawing a blank on other


now, I know I found stacks of other "working" songs that would have fit


bill just as well. You might look into the Scottish waulking songs---I


J. David Moore has some available, and he probably has other

arrangements of

"working" songs as well. Alice Parker's "Women on the Plains" (Treble


Press) has its charms, and I'm guessing Earthsongs has a few songs from

other cultures that I'm not remembering right now.

More if they come to me!

Eliza Rubenstein

Costa Mesa, CA

OCWC / Goddesses and Other Working Women, spring 2002:

Zae Munn: The Muse & The Stove

Hildegard of Bingen: O Virtus Sapientiae

Maria Lofberg: O Virtus Sapientiae

Henry Purcell: Sing, Sing, Ye Muses

Gustav Holst: Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (set 3)

Israeli folksong, arr. Nina Gilbert: Artsa Alinu

Stephen Hatfield: Chant for a Long Day

Bela Bartok: Three Treble Choruses ("Ciposutes"--"Bread-baking"--is


Ivan Spassov: Twche Donka Platno (Bulgarian song about a woman


drunk as she spins wool!)

Atahualpa Yupanqui: Duerme Negrito (gorgeous)

Caroline Kohlsaat: Bread and Roses (the quintessential women's labor


Si Kahn: We All Sang 'Bread and Roses'


look at the following:

There are many great agrrrangements, some related to work--esp Away

from the Roll of the Sea and J'entends le moulin. also another setting of

Log Driver's Waltz. I know others will come to mind, but may take a

good night's sleep first.


Nora Zablow

MOntpelier, VT=================== ------

=Here is another one that sounds interesting from World mUsic Press (I

don't know it personally)


*Joban Tanko Bushi (019): A well-known Japanese work song of the miners

of Ibaragi Prefecture. In three interesting parts including typical

vocal embellishments; in Japanese. (Arr. Wendy Stuarts

Nora Zablow, who wishes she had a women's choir to
conduct!================== ------
here are a few ideas.......

1- this may be too far afield, but if you want to intersperse some (contemporary) solo work for contrast there are excellent pieces in Stephen Schwartz' musical, "Working". Loads of info can be found at, including licensing info.

2- found at .......
Stephen Hatfield: Three Ways To Vacuum Your House
Three Ways To Vacuum Your House - Part I (SSA)
Three Ways To Vacuum Your House - Part II (SSA)
Three Ways To Vacuum Your House - Part III (SSA)

These original pieces incorporates a multiplicity of multicultural influences, from Peru to Scotland. The text is a sequence of nonsense syllables, imitating the humming and muttering one does during housework. The first movement explores various hemiola patterns culminating in vocalized drum patterns modeled on Arabic and Indian traditions. The second movement, whose slow groove is derived from Reggae, incorporates tonalities and scale structures from Brazil and Lebanon. The final movement starts in Peru, and works upward through Latin America only to discover a hitherto unexplored Mexican/Scottish border. Lots of fun to both teach and sing! $5.95
3- The Smoothing Iron, arr. Kenneth Neufeld, English text, Boosey, M-051-47322-9, SSA & keyboard. This traditional English work song is actually a story of a young lad who dreams of his love working through her chores on a day-to-day basis. Because the folksong is strophic and repetitive in form, the arranger has varied the setting with fine descants and interesting partwriting. As each day's tasks increase, variations in the melody change to reflect the tasks of the love of his dreams. Moving from a simple first verse declaration, each verse becomes more challenging in nature. Requiring an accomplished choir that can perform some subtle artistic distinctions, this arrangement takes a simple tune and made it into a very artistic declaration of young love. Difficulty rating 4. $2.95
4- Probably hard to find a copy of.........
one copy found at
(Book) Once Upon a Song.

Shawnee, 1961.
Three and four part songs for treble voices (SSA and SSAA)
Bombo Lao (Work song from the Congo)

How about spirituals that were sung as 'work songs'?

For work songs, if you're OK with tackling a foreign language, I'd

thoroughly recommend 'He mandu', a Gaelic waulking song from the West

of Scotland (traditionally sung by groups of women sitting around a

table as they beat or 'full' cloth).

It's arranged by Peter Hill (SSAA a cappella) and published online by

Canasg (, where you can view the score and listen to a

MIDI file. The Columbus Women's Chorus used this song a few years

ago and I could send you a recording of their performance. I could

also make a voice recording of the pronunciation for you, if that

would be useful.


Sheena Phillips

Canasg Music Publishing
Duerme negrito - SSAA, publ. by earthsongs

Beautiful piece about a mother trying to put her son to sleep. The middle section talks about "how I work hard all day"...

It's a beautiful piece - check it out if you don't already know it.

Iris Levine
Artistic Director
Vox Femina Los Angeles

I just got two arrangements of Canadian folk-songs published through


Plus Corporation: "The Mary Ellen Carter" and "Northwest Passage."


would fit well if you wanted to do a "Canadian folk song" set.

Let me know, and I'll send advance copies of them to you as Sibelius


I think you'd like them!

- Ian Loeppky
I saw your message on Choralnet, and two or three things come to mind immediately. “Punching the Dough”, “Housekeeper’s Tragedy”, and “A Prairie Woman Sings”. You may have these already, as they are not new. I can send you singles “on approval”, if you desire. Just let me know if I can help. My phone # is. 800-444-2408. If any others come to mind, I will let you know.
Don’t “work” too hard!
Dick Boyd
Shattinger Music Company
St. Louis, Mo

Susan Marrier
Thunder Bay, Ontario CANADA

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Here's a song about work that I missed with my earlier compilation.

There is a lovely women's chorus from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin, Act 1. The chorus is sung by servant girls, out in a garden, picking fruit. Its SSA, with flowing lines and beautiful harmonies. Its within the capabilities of a good high school treble choir.

There is a edition by John Rutter in the Oxford anthology, Opera Choruses. I don't know if its available as an octavo.

Tony Martinez

Susan Marrier

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on October 3, 2006 10:00pm
Here is a link to my Womens Choir reportoire. Very interesting stuff.

Roar Kvam
on October 10, 2006 10:00pm
Some more to add:

As costureiras by Villa-Lobos (G. Schirmer) , with a very fast a cappella ostinato imitating a sewing machine.

Got So Tired by Prokhorov (Musica Russica)