May 12, 2011

The Happy Wanderer



     I attended the Ligonier Valley Middle School 2011 Spring Concert on April 18, 2011. Jordan, my thirteen year old granddaughter, played the clarinet in the band.

     While waiting for the concert to begin, and in between segments, my mind wandered to another concert, my seventh grade graduation event at School #63 in Buffalo, New York. I, too, was thirteen, but I was in the chorus (forget that I cannot sing my way out of a barrel falling over Niagara Falls—I was required to be in the program).

     Still today, hidden in the corner of a closet, is the dress I wore—an orange floral pattern on a white background. I loved that dress. I also remember that I tried to iron it before the concert, and the iron burned off some of the silky, flimsy fabric. I never said anything to anyone, and still do not know if my mother knew. But I did.

     I attended the elementary school, No. 63, for almost two years, beginning in November 1954, the year our family suddenly packed up and moved from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Buffalo. My mother had just married, and after the move we lived with my step-father’s mother, three-quarters of a block from the school. My step-uncle also lived in the house, as did my infant sibling, Jane, born the previous July.

     Although I attended classes at the elementary school for almost two years, I cannot recall any of my classmate’s names. I didn’t form any friendships during that time. I spent my time alone. I recall taking walks, meandering along the street close to the house, kicking through leaves in the fall and making snow angels in the winter.

     I don’t recall being interested in boys at the time, although other girls were. I pretended to have a crush on a classmate, Bob Curthoys, who lived on the next street over. When I went to meet my mother at the bus on her evening return from her job, I had to pass by his house. I would take Jane in her stroller, walking back and forth to get his attention. It never worked. That never bothered me, but then, I wasn’t truly into boys…

     I only remember one thing about the graduation program: singing the song Happy Wanderer. I looked it up on the Internet yesterday and learned it is a Boy Scout tune rooted in Germany:

The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir, from Obernkirchen in North Germany, where it is known as Schaumburger Marchensanger, was founded in 1949 by Edith Moller. In 1953 BBC Radio aired the choir’s winning performance, performing “The Happy Wanderer” at Llangollen International Eisteddfod, an annual arts festival in North Wales. The event was witnessed by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who described the girls as “Pigtailed Angels” and the broadcast turned the cheerful song into the great sing-along of the year. It was the best-selling sheet music in 1954 in the UK.

The then unknown German Folk song was actually an original song written by Edith Moller’s brother Friedrich-Wilhelm Moller, for the competition

The original German title was “Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann.” The English lyrics were written by Antonia Rudge and it became a staple of many a scouting jamboree.

The song made the choir an international phenomenon and they were invited to sing all round the world including appearing twice on The Ed Sullivan Show. The choir was also featured in a 1955 German musical comedy film named after the song.*


I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track,  
And as I go, I love to sing,
My nap-sack on my back. 

Valderee, valderah, Valderee, valderah ha ha ha ha ha. 
Valderee, valderah, my nap-sack on my back.  

I love to wander by the brook that dances in the sun. 
So joyously it calls to me, Come join my happy fun. 

Valderee, valderah, Valderee, valderah ha ha ha ha ha. 
Valderee, valderah, my nap-sack on my back.   

I wave my hat to all I meet, and they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet, from every greenwood tree.**
  (To continue, click on

     Sometimes I find myself humming the tune as I work around the house or take a walk. As I listened to Jordan’s band playing Music from the Pirates of the Caribbean and Kingdom Hearts, I wondered if she too would be humming the melodies fifty-five years into her future.





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1 Comment »

  1. Rest assured, they will have similar memories…

    Comment by Andrew — November 27, 2011 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

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