Log Driver's Waltz, The

Conductor Notes:

If you are looking for a cheeky antidote to lovely choral singing by your women’s choir, look no further than The Log Driver’s Waltz. This fairly new folk song from Ontario was originally a solo song. A young, rebellious girl from an earlier time is singing the praises of the men in her town who work in the lumber industry. They are “log drivers” and their job is to walk on top of the logs as they are floated down the river from the logging camp to the mill. Armed with a long pole and incredible agility, strength and balance, they jump from floating log to floating log, keeping the whole load moving and breaking up log jams along the shore. Anyone who has tried to stand up on a floating log knows this borders on an Olympic sport! Although the girl’s parents want her to dance with the doctors and lawyers, she prefers the log drivers for their great dancing skill. Ron Smail’s arrangement has lots of divisi and rhythmic challenges, but does work together into a light, bouncy a cappella texture that supports the melody and mood well. I have performed this arrangement with anywhere from 30 to 160 singers – and the trick is always to keep the singing light and the tempo moving. Don’t consider this arrangement unless you have a very accomplished (or at least brave) coloratura soprano soloist who is capable of acting the diva. If you are lucky enough to have such a singer, she is probably dying to show off with The Log Driver’s Waltz and her life will be complete when she makes it her own. Have a great time with this arrangement! Here’s an iconic short cartoon from the National Film Board of Canada that says it all. This isn’t the choral arrangement but will give you a smile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upsZZ2s3xv8

Composer / Arranger Notes:

I was living in Montreal and I had just been introduced to Stan Rogers’ music. I had been arranging mostly jazz ‘standards’ so it was a refreshing change to do some arrangements of folk music. I was now on the prowl for more examples of this genre. I read an article in the Montreal Gazette about a folk composer by the name of Wade Hemsworth, who had written, as a sideline or hobby, a total of fifteen songs which had just been published. I went down to the Double Hook bookstore and looked at the collection. I quietly sang thru’ most of the songs and realized that there were quite a few that would adapt very well to a cappella choral music. I didn’t purchase the book that day because I wanted to wait for the in-store book signing and get his autograph. The day arrived and I looked out the window to see one of those Montreal winter blizzards. Tons of snow, howling winds, wind chill of some unbearable depth, but off I went in my parka. I really wanted to meet this guy. And I did. I bought the collection, stood in line, and briefly explained that I was an arranger who wanted to make use of his great songs. He signed my book and looked up and said, “That’s great, man. That’s why we’re doing this.” After arranging The Log Driver’s Waltz which, at the time, was completely unknown to me, I discovered how well known a song it was. Many people told me about the very amusing NFB animated short that the song was written for, and only then did I start to notice it on television.


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If you should ask any girl from the parish around what pleases her most from her head to her toes, she’ll say “I’m not sure that it’s business of yours, but I do like to waltz with a log driver. Refrain: For he goes birling down, a-down white water; that’s where the log driver learns to step lightly. It’s birling down, a-down white water; a log driver’s waltz pleases girls completely.” To please both my parents I’ve had to give way and dance with the doctors and merchants and lawyers. Their manners are fine but their feet are of clay for there’s none with the style of a log driver. (Refrain) I’ve had my chances with all sorts of men but none is so fine as my lad on the river. So when the drive’s over, if he asks me again, I think I will marry my log driver. (Refrain)