She's Like the Swallow

Conductor Notes:

There are dozens of arrangements of this haunting folk song from Newfoundland , and here is one by Vancouver composer Stephen Chatman that is simple but effective. Particularly poignant when sung by female voices, this folk song is a lament about a girl who has been betrayed by a lover. Chatman’s arrangement is in C# minor for SSAA a cappella. The piece opens simply in two parts, then a harmonically rich 4-part texture unfolds for verse 2. The third and final verse is a canon, which creates a timeless and reflective quality to the ending, as the fourth voice finishes the piece alone. An SATB arrangement is also available.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

My initial arrangement of She’s like the Swallow’ (SATB), one of my Five Canadian Folk Songs, was commissioned in 1995 by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Jon Washburn, director. The following year, I rearranged the SATB version of SSAA, and that version was premiered by Elektra Women’s Choir. The transparent simplicity and stark sadness of the first stanza contrast the resolved dissonances of the second stanza and the strict four part canon of the final stanza. During the creative process, I was both surprised and pleased to discover that the tune works perfectly as a canon for any number of voices.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.





She’s like the swallow that flies so high,

She’s like the river that never runs dry.

She’s like the sunshine on the lee shore,

I love my love and love is no more.

‘Twas out in the garden this fair maid did go,

A picking the beautiful primrose;

The more she plucked the more she pulled,

until she got her apron full.

It’s out of those roses she made a bed,

A stony pillow for her head.

She laid her down, no word she spoke,

Until this fair maid’s heart was broke.