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Frère Jacques

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Frère Jacques

"Frère Jacques"
Written France
Form Nursery rhyme
Language French

Frère Jacques (, French pronunciation: ​) (in French; in English: Brother James, in Dutch: Vader(/Pater) Jacob), is a nursery rhyme of French origin. The rhyme is traditionally sung in a round.

The song is about a monk, brother (or father) Jacob, who has overslept and is urged to wake up and sound the bells for the matins, the midnight or very early morning prayers for which a monk would be expected to wake.


  • Lyrics 1
    • Theories of origin 1.1
  • Published record 2
    • First publication 2.1
    • Comparison with Fra Jacopino 2.2
  • Cultural references 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Tune for Frère Jacques

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Sheet music version

The original French version of the song is as follows:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

The song is traditionally translated into English as:

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John? Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

A more literal translation of the French lyrics would be:

Friar Jacon, Friar Jacon
Sleepest thou? Sleepest thou?
Sound the matin bells! Sound the matin bells!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

The translation of "Frère" would be "Friar" in this case, because this song is about Jacques, a religious monk. In English the word Friar is probably derived from the French word frère ("brother" in English), as French was still widely used in official circles in England during the 13th century when the four great orders of Friars started. The French word frère in turn comes from the Latin word frater (which also means "brother").

Theories of origin

A possible connection between Frère Jacques and the 17th century lithotomist Frère Jacques Beaulieu (also known as Frère Jacques Baulot[1][2]), as claimed by Irvine Loudon[3] and many others, was explored by J. P. Ganem and C. C. Carson[4] without finding any evidence for a connection.

Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp argue that Frère Jacques originally was a song to taunt Jews or Protestants or Martin Luther (see Frère Jacques in popular culture).[5]

Martine David and A. Marie Delrieu suggest that Frère Jacques might have been created to mock the Dominican monks, known in France as the Jacobin order, for their sloth and comfortable lifestyles.[6]

In a review of a book about Kozma Prutkov, Richard Gregg notes it has been claimed that Frère Jacques Frère Jacques was derived from a Russian seminary song about a "Father Theofil".[7]

Published record

First publication

Sheet music collector James Fuld (1916 - 2008) states that the tune was first published in 1811,[8] and that the words and music were published together in Paris in 1869.[9] However, the words and music appear together in Recreations de l'enfance: Recueil de Rondes avec Jeux et de Petites Chansons pour Faire Jouer, Danser et Chanter les Enfants avec un Accompagnement de Piano Très-Facile by Charles Lebouc, which was first published in 1860 by Rouart, Lerolle & C. in Paris.[10] This book was very popular and it was republished several times, so many editions exist. An earlier publication, from 1825, includes the words together with a description of the melody in solfège, but not in musical notation.[11]

Allmusic states that the earliest printed version of the melody is on a French manuscript circa 1780 (manuscript 300 in the manuscript collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris). The manuscript is titled "Recueil de Timbres de Vaudevilles", and the Bibliothèque Nationale estimates that it was printed between 1775 and 1785. The Frère Jacques melody is labelled "Frère Blaise" in this manuscript.

French musicologist Sylvie Bouissou has found some evidence that composer Jean-Philippe Rameau had written the music. A manuscript at the French National Library contains Frère Jacques among 86 canons, with Rameau listed as author.[12]

Comparison with Fra Jacopino

Frère Jacques bears resemblance to the piece Toccate d'intavolatura, No.14, Capriccio Fra Jacopino sopra L'Aria Di Ruggiero composed by Girolamo Frescobaldi,[13] which was first published around 1615[14] - "Fra Jacopino" is one potential Italian translation for "Frère Jacques".[15] Edward Kilenyi pointed out that Fra Jacopino shares the same Frère Jacques-like melody as Chanson de Lambert, a French song dating from 1650, and a Hungarian folk tune.[16]

The Frère Jacques tune is one of the most basic repeating canons along with the melody of Three Blind Mice. It is also simple enough to have spread easily from place to place. For example, Barbara Mittler in a conference abstract points out that the melody of Frère Jacques is so thoroughly assimilated into Chinese culture that it might be widely regarded as a Chinese folksong in China.[17]

Cultural references

The song Frère Jacques often appears in popular culture. Frère Jacques is one of the most widely known songs in the world, and it can be found in many places.


  1. ^ Jacques BAULOT
  2. ^ Un célèbre lithotomiste franc-comtois : Jacques Baulot dit Frère Jacques (1651-1720), E. Bourdin, Besançon, 1917
  3. ^ Western Medicine, Irvine Loudon, Oxford University Press, Dec 1, 2001, ISBN 0-19-924813-3
  4. ^ Frère Jacques Beaulieu: from rogue lithotomist to nursery rhyme character, Ganem JP, Carson CC, J Urol. 1999 Apr;161(4):1067-9.
  5. ^ Mahler and the Crisis of Jewish Identity by Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp, ECHO volume III, issue 2 (Fall 2001)
  6. ^ Refrains d'enfants, histoire de 60 chansons populaires, Martine David, A. Marie Delrieu, Herscher, 1988.
  7. ^ Review of Koz'ma Prutkov: The Art of Parody by Barbara Heldt Monter, reviewed by Richard Gregg, Slavic Review, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Jun., 1974), pp. 401-402.
  8. ^ La Cle du Caveau a l'usage de tous les Chansonniers francais, Paris, 1811
  9. ^ The Book of World Famous Music Classical, Popular, and Folk', James J. Fuld, 1995, Dover Publications, Inc., ISBN 0-486-28445-X
  10. ^ the C. stands for Cie., which in English would be Co. or Company
  11. ^ Paris, Aimé (1825). Expositions et pratique des procédés de la mnemotechniques, à l'usage des personnes qui veulent étudier la mnémotechnie en général. Paris. pp. 502–505. 
  12. ^ "Frère Jacques" a été composé par Jean Philippe Rameau
  13. ^ Frescobaldi: Harpsichord Works, composer: Jacques Arcadelt, Girolamo Frescobaldi; Performer: Louis Bagger. Audio CD (August 28, 2001)
  14. ^ Frescobaldi: Toccate & Partite, Libro Primo, Todd M. McComb
  15. ^ Fra Jacopino has additional historical importance. The half note and quarter note are reported to have first appeared in Frescobaldi's publication of Fra Jacopino.
  16. ^ The Theory of Hungarian Music, Edward Kilenyi, Musical Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Jan., 1919), pp. 20-39
  17. ^ From Mozart to Mao to Mozart--Western Music in Modern China, Barbara Mittler, Rethinking cultural revolution culture, Heidelberg, 22-24.2.2001

External links

  • " interactive and multilingual collection on videoFrère JacquesA "
  • Multiple versions of the song with sheet music
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