Today I’m very excited to share with you an arrangement of ‘Land of the Silver Birch’, because it’s a Canadian folk song, and I’m Canadian and thus biased, and it’s just overall a good tune. It’s the first piece we’ve learned on this site in a minor key – in the next video, we’ll talk more details about that.
Land of the Silver Birch Sheet Music
The PDF for the piece can be found here: Land of the Silver Birch Sheet Music
Land of the Silver Birch backstory
Land of the Silver Birch is a good canoe song – the tempo is just right to coordinate with paddle strokes. It has origins with First Nations people of Canada, and the lyrics are all about the Canadian countryside, and I quote, “land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, where still the mighty moose wanders at will”. Here’s a link to the full lyrics, because they’re awesome.
This piece has what you would call a ‘rhythmic motif’. A motif is basically just a recurring pattern of some sort – motifs can be melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, etc. In this song, the left hand carries a short rhythm that repeats again and again.
The left hand pattern is half note, quarter quarter. Even when the notes change, this rhythm is maintained through the whole thing, so we call it a rhythmic motif. Now you know some fancy lingo!
At the beginning we have “Andante”, which is Italian for “walking speed”. If you think that’s a vague description, take a minute to stroll around your living room or wherever you happen to be – and by listening to the sound of your footsteps, you’ll quickly understand what ‘walking speed’ means. Hint: it’s not very fast. Then it would be called ‘running speed’.
First and Second Ending
First and second endings are just slightly more fancy repeats. The first time you play the song through, you play the first ending (underneath the “1” bracket), and on the repeat, you skip the first ending and instead jump to the second ending (underneath the “2” bracket).
On the very last note of the LH, it says ‘8vb’. This is saying, play 1 octave ‘LOWER’, or below, what’s written. Often in music it’ll just say 8va, and if it’s written below the note, you go lower, and if it’s written above, you go higher. This is just another way to say the same thing.
Land of the Silver Birch Phrasing
Especially because Land of the Silver Birch is a vocal piece, learn the melody all by itself first, and make it full of expression. You don’t want to play like a robot for this (or pretty much ever). Pay attention to the phrasing, as this is the punctuation of the piece.
The last thing we’ll talk about with this piece is the overall sound. It’s very different from what we’ve worked on up until now, and that’s actually because this song is written in a minor key – A natural minor key, to be exact.