Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (A Singable Book, Song History, Sing Along Tracks, Lyrics and Heartfelt Musings)

Posted on: December 8, 2009

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” makes an elegant, contemplative Winter Song and Singable Book.

The kid’s poetry section of a local bookstore was selling Susan Jeffers’ illustration of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,”  the poem by Robert Frost.  The pictures glory in the mystery of the woods, as the old man in a sleigh plays in the snow and brings gifts of hay and seeds for the forest creatures.  The illustrations make you feel like you are outside on a crisp snowy day.  I thrilled at the memory of romping through woods as a young girl, catching myself alone in a wild place.  The book, originally published in 1978 with a newer printing in 2001, feels like a celebration with its velum dust jacket and blue foil lettering.  One favorite page accompanies the line “and downy flake,” with delicate snow crystal drawings that look like they were taken from Wilson Bentley photographs.  Another notable page accompanies the first uttering of “And miles to go before I sleep,” with birds decorating a leafless snow sprinkled tree.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Poem by Robert Frost
Sing to the Tune of Greensleeves
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Sing along with Emily, here:
https://soundcloud.com/singbookswithemily/stopping-by-woods-eleg-2010

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This book would make great gift. What a nice way to introduce a famous poem to a child, especially if given along with the suggestion it can be sung.

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I’d never heard anyone sing this poem, but the words about a deeply private and spiritual moment are begging to be sung.

I found a fascinating recording of “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by the opera singer Susan Graham.  Although this setting and her voice are gorgeous, not many people would be comfortable singing this piece (even if the key were lowered).

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Another version is lushly recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  This setting is beautiful, haunting, and singable.  “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”  is Track 7 on their album “Choose Something Like a Star,” a loving tribute to the choral music of Randall Thompson.  The official Mormon Tabernacle Choir website (www.mormontabernaclechoir.org) says of Randall Thompson’s music that it is, “Noted for its beautiful harmonies, timeless sense of drama, and meticulous craftsmanship, his music has been described as American in spirit yet universal in its appeal.”  I look forward to listening to the rest of this album which features a number of musical settings of Robert Frost poetry.

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I was enchanted to find an instrumental version of this piece by Keola Beamer, a master of the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar.  His rendition of the choral piece is simple and effecting and singing along is a delectable experience.  You will find the song on his album “The Coming of Snow,” Track 1.

The song would take some effort to learn, but in the music, I heard shades of  the tune “Greensleeves.”

Sure enough, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is the perfect companion to that wonderful old tune.

The origins and authorship of Greensleeves are hard to nail down, with many different stories online.  However, the tune seems to have been first published in mid 16th century England in a book of songs for the lute.  And, it was apparently a well-known tune even then, since it is mentioned in Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” by Mrs. Ford and Falstaff.

When you sing and share it with others, you get to write a sentence in its long history. The song becomes part of you and you become part of the song.

Greensleeves is a great tune for singing a capella, and doing so allows you to take your time with the words and the especially charming illustrations in Susan Jeffers’ book.

A terrific sing along track can be found on “A Festival of Carols in Brass” by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble.  The instrumental track with horns is for the song “What Child is This” (Track 21), the Christmas carol which was written to the tune of Greensleeves.  The key and tempo are quite nice for singing the song and turning the pages of the book.  As an added bonus, this instrumental track repeats the melody exactly as many times as the poem has verses.


You can hear a preview by clicking here:
http://www.amazon.com/What-Child-Is-This-Instrumental/dp/B001BKEGXU/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1267021296&sr=1-18

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I recorded an a capella version of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” sing-along with me:
https://soundcloud.com/singbookswithemily/stopping-by-woods-eleg-2010

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Much song history on GREENSLEEVES in this wiki article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greensleeves

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STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stopping_by_Woods_on_a_Snowy_Evening

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Robert Frost wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”  in 1922 and it was included in his volume “New Hampshire” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923.   It is said that he wrote the poem quickly, at sunrise, after walking outside on a cold winter morning that followed a long night of writing another work.

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“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is included in the wonderful book “Poetry Speaks to Children,” illustrated by Wendy Rasmussen.  This book comes complete with a CD that contains Robert Frost himself reading his own poem on Track 3.


Poetry Speaks to Children
Edited by Elise Paschen
Illustrated by Judy Love, Wendy Rasmussen, Paula Zinngrabe Wendland
Comes with a CD of artists and authors reading the poems
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is printed on p. 4 and a recording of Robert Frost reading his poem is on Track 3 of the CD

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“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” may be a short poem, but it is rich in imagery and symbolism and has great potential for interpretation.  With each reading or singing, this poem becomes more interesting, layers of meaning reveal themselves, and personal images come to mind.

In cabaret, performers strive to create a personal movie about a song. Projected in the mind of the singer, the movie helps convey a personal connection to the music and words.  With text like Robert Frost’s and an old aire like Greensleeves (or the choral setting by Randall Thompson), such a movie produces itself and the job of anyone sharing the song is to just get out of its way and let the experience create itself.  You don’t have to DO anything, just sing.  If you have the chance to sing it with the lovely pictures of Susan Jeffers in hand, then all the better.

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STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

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A page for the Sing Books with Emily SINGABLE ADVENT CALENDAR

STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
Another poem from Robert Frosts that captures a beautiful aspect of the season.  This poem is rich and profound, but friendly and approachable enough to appreciate just the beautiful words and images.  A few years ago, I discovered quite by accident that the words of this poem can be sung to the tune of “Greensleeves.” The tune and words together make a lovely and thoughtful song.

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SBWE Advent Calendar Stopping by Woods
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Poem by Robert Frost
Sing to the Tune of Greensleeves
To view or print the SBWE Singable Advent Calendar sheet for “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” click here:
SBWE Advent Calendar Stopping by Woods
Sing along with Emily, here:
https://soundcloud.com/singbookswithemily/stopping-by-woods-eleg-2010

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Addendum 7/27/2014

Writing this in July 2014, I’ve been taking guitar lessons for about a year now.  I’ve collected up a number of chords with which I am familiar and which feel like friends to me and I use many of them at will to arrange songs to accompany myself on guitar…familiar songs and some written together with my children.

My guitar teacher Josh pointed out that, thought the F chord, is common in the keys I frequently use for singing, I’ve successfully avoided using it in my guitar playing and maybe it’s about time I made it a friend with the others.

OK.  But the F chord is difficult.  Playing the the “real” way (as in playing it as a bar chord) is currently impossible, but the “cheat” version is hard enough, requiring me to use all 4 playing fingers on my left hand while remembering not to strum the top and bottom strings (both the note E, which do not belong in the chord).

So I decided to find a song that I really want to play and that would require me to use an F chord.  Looking through the book:

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modest coll trad songs of colonial period
A Modest Collection of Traditional Songs of the Colonial Period
Words and Music by Various Artists
Collected and Edited by M. Richard Tully

I found a simple arrangement of the song GREENSLEEVES, which a few years ago I discovered is the perfect tune for singing Robert Frost’s poemSTOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING, which has since become one of my favorite songs to sing…a classic, gorgeous American poem to an ancient, gorgeous tune.

We have a winner.  Now I begin…

Here are the GREENSLEEVES guitar chords fitted to STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING.

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Stopping by Woods w Guitar Chords SBWE
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Song Sheet with Guitar Chords by ELEG for SBWE
Poem by Robert Frost
Sing to the Tune of Greensleeves
Song Sheet Assembled by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus
To view or print this song sheet, click here:
Stopping by Woods w Guitar Chords SBWE

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Related Posts

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POETRY SINGABLE POETRY IN COMPILATIONS

An list of  singable poems from compilations of poetry for children
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/singable-poetry-a-list-of-poems-that-can-be-sung-from-illustrated-compilations-of-poetry-and-singable-picture-books/

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POETRY, SINGABLE POETRY IN INDIVIDUALLY ILLUSTRATED SINGABLE PICTURE BOOKS
A list of individually illustrated poems that have been set to music and can be sung
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/poems-individually-illustrated-spb/

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THE ROSE FAMILY (POEM BY ROBERT FROST), A SINGABLE PICTURE BOOK
https://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/the-rose-family-a-singable-poem-by-robert-frost-musical-setting-by-elliott-carter-and-a-singable-picture-book/

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STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING (POEM BY ROBERT FROST), A SINGABLE PICTURE BOOK
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-a-singable-book-song-history-sing-along-tracks-lyrics-and-heartfelt-musings/

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WINTER

Singable Picture Books for Winter
Some of these are sung at Christmastime, but this is a list of songs about Winter that you can sing all season long!
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/singable-picture-books-for-winter/

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SING BOOKS WITH EMILY SINGABLE ADVENT CALENDAR
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/the-sing-books-with-emily-singable-advent-calendar/

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CHRISTMAS

A Collection of Singable Picture Books that celebrate CHRISTMAS!
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/singable-picture-books-for-christmas/

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USEFUL TUNES IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/useful-tunes-in-the-public-domain/

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A Song Sheet with Guitar Chords for STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
http://singbookswithemily.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/a-song-sheet-with-guitar-chords-for-stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening/

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1 Response to "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (A Singable Book, Song History, Sing Along Tracks, Lyrics and Heartfelt Musings)"

thanks for your awesome column!

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