I cannot sing the old songs

Music: Charlotte Alington Barnard (1830–69) arr. Frances Cockburn. Words: Charlotte Alington Barnard
performance time approx 2m 50s
Range S1: c' – e'' / S2: c' – d'' / A: a – g'
Price code: C
Complexity: **

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Charlotte Alington Barnard, who often wrote under the pseudonym Claribel, wrote numerous ballads and hymns. This one looks back nostalgically at the 'old songs' - and will serve very well for a dreamy or sentimental moment in your programme. Frances Cockburn's arrangement is mostly homophonic and easy to learn. The tune lies in the top line throughout though it is often crossed by the second line.

As a song about singing, I Cannot Sing the Old Songs would pair well with How Can I Keep From Singing? (available from Canasg in SSA and SATB versions), whose lyrics were written in the same year (1868).


I cannot sing the old songs
I sang long years ago,
For heart and voice would fail me
And foolish tears would flow;
For bygone hours come o'er my heart
With each familiar strain;
I cannot sing the old songs,
Or dream those dreams again.

I cannot sing the old songs,
Their charm is sad and deep;
Their melodies would waken
Old sorrows from their sleep;
And though all unforgotten still,
and sadly sweet they be,
I cannot sing the old songs,
They are too dear to me.

I cannot sing the old songs,
For visions come again,
Of golden dreams departed
And years of weary pain;
Perhaps when earthly fetters
shall have set my spirit free,
My voice may know the old songs,
For all eternity.

Charlotte Alington Barnard (1830–69)

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