O Waly Waly – Benjamin Britten – Track 6


This is a folk song of Scottish origin of which there are innumerable versions. The modern lyrics ‘the Water is Wide’ was named by Cecil Sharp in 1906 from multiple other sources in Southern England, following English lyrics with a different story.

Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten used the melody and verses of The Water is Wide for his version in 1948 which doesn’t have the O Waly Waly verse yet is still called O Waly Waly.

Kathleen Ferrier

The modern version of the song was sung by Pete Seeger in the folk revival. It has also been recorded by Sarah Brightman, Janet Baker, Sir Thomas Allen whose masterclass at the RCS I attended last week, and Kathleen Ferrier to name just a few.

Meeting Sir Thomas Allen Following A Masterclass At The RCS

Here is a performance that I recorded back in August 2013 whilst performing at a recital in Lytham St Annes accompanied by Russell Lomas.

I have really enjoyed publishing these posts on the songs from my album and if you want to check them out again you can find them by selecting Discography on the menu bar. I do hope that you have enjoyed reading about them.

56 thoughts on “O Waly Waly – Benjamin Britten – Track 6

  1. Bonsoir Charlotte ! Really enjoy too !! A pleasure to read, watch and listen you.
    Always a pleasure too , listen to your CD every day.
    Bravo, thank you for these beautiful trips.

  2. My little brother and I used to sing our own version of this that went “O waly waly up the bank, and waly waly down the other side..” Perhaps you could record that version?

  3. Totally irrelevant – and no doubt irreverent too – but I cannot hear the words ‘waly waly’ without thinking of Terry Pratchett’s Nac Mac Feegle, his highly Scottish Pictsies. Perhaps you and their Gonagall should one day sing a duet to the tume of the Mouse pipes?

      1. Pratchett is seriously famous for the Discworld series, a phenomenon amongst series in that, after 40+ books, not only are the later ones fresh, funny and involving, but they’re some of the best ones of all, something I used to believe was impossible.

        If you want to know more about the Nac Mac Feegle, read ‘The Wee Free Men’: that’s the first in a sub-series where they co-star with Tiffany Aching, the Discworlds youngest witch. And her books just get better and better.

  4. Beautiful. Britten was a genius of course, setting that melody to those unsettling, questioning chords. It must be quite a challenge for a singer to hold the tune over such an accompaniment, ever more to retain the direct, heartfelt emotion. Musicianship of this kind is baffling to us non-musicians, and to be admired. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Hi Amritpal lots of opportunities coming up, just need to try to raise some funds so that we can travel to them, I’ll let you know more soon. With the conservatoire I’m rehearsing for the chorus in an opera called Sir John in Love an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, rehearsing with the Chamber Choir and with Les Sirenes and preparing for exams with new singing repertoire 😊. A busy term ahead.
      Best wishes

  5. Beautifully performed as always. I have enjoyed reading about your songs very much as, in just a few words you not only talk about the song and its history but also famous performers and how you got to know the song too. Lovely!

  6. Lovely. Sorry it lost the “wale’, wale’ ” in this version, though.
    Although very different, it somehow reminds me of one of my all-time favourite songs, ‘She Moved through the Fair’.

    1. Oh I love She Moved Through the Fair, I learnt it with an Irish lilt with the help of my Irish Maths teacher Mr England 😊. I thought I did a fair job with it but got heavily criticised for singing “a mans folk song” so I stopped including it in my programs.
      Best wishes

      1. It is a pity, indeed, that it is so specifically a man’s lament. Unfortunately it wouldn’t work to make it ‘He moved …’
        ‘Molly Malone’ is more forgiving, but hasn’t quite the same impact.

      2. This got me thinking how much I’d enjoy a rendition by you, and how the moaners could be made to stop moaning – perhaps! Adjust the words so that you become a third person narrator, thus:

        His young love said to him,
        My mother won’t mind
        And my father won’t slight you
        For your lack of kind.
        And she stepped away from him
        And this she did say:
        It will not be long, Love,
        Till our wedding day.

  7. I learnt this at school and have always loved it. I put it into my first novel, A Small Rain. I am so pleased you went to the Thomas Allen masterclass. I thought of you when it came up as one of the silent auction items at the BYO dinner we attended, but the guide price was beyond us. Isn’t he lovely, we have seen him in so many productions at the Royal Opera House. Thank you for this lovely rendition.

      1. Thanks Charlotte..I am in the Quarterfinals!! Woo woo! Episode three is really funny and I enjoyed watching it! A cruise liner sails down the Thames and I say wistfully whilst slumped at a 1950s sewing machine..”I wish I was on that boat” . I am still laughing about it now!! 🐝

  8. Hello Charlotte! I saw your comment on Violet’s post “Quick, Easy & Healthy Vegan Recipe: Avocado Pesto-Inspired Pasta” so I dropped by to see your blog. I am so impressed, you are a very talented, beautiful young lady with an amazing voice!!

    <3 carmen

    PS. I made the pasta/avocado dinner – it's DEElish!!!

    1. Thank you Carmen, I 💜 Violet and her blog. I’m living on ready meals at the moment but when I get chance I really will try the pasta and avocado meal, thanks for popping by and your lovely message.
      Best wishes

    1. Thank you Charlotte, for the beautiful songs that you sing, and I will be praying for you as you continue to use your gift to the glory of God. We were placed on earth to be a blessing and you are doing just that. May the Lord bless you richly my beloved friend.

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