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Lyrics: Stacey Philipps

Duration: ca. 4:00

Difficulty: Moderate (GIA level 3)


A fresh perspective on the familiar song "Scarborough Fair" arises in combination here with another traditional English ballad, "Rose Red," as the story is recounted as a reminiscence while walking the road to the fair. The song's common folk and fairy tale themes of setting impossible tasks turns into a story of a suitor winning over the initially reluctant Rose Red only to find it's too late in the end.


The origins of many "Scarborough Fair" lyrics hearken back to several 17th-century ballads, including the song, "The Elfin King," for which some records include 20 verses. "Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme" is one of several iterations of the refrain that may relate to a similar Scottish ballad, "Lord John," which contains the refrain "sober and grave grows merry in time." Whether borrowed and changed or misheard, today's commonly known list of herbs represent gratitude, wisdom, rememberance, and courage, respectively, a perfect combination to underscore the emotions at play in the lyrics.


The most well-known version of the "Scarborough Fair" tune was popularized by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel who learned it from English folk singer Martin Carthy, who learned it from Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl's book of Teesdale folk songs, "The Singing Island," which notated the tune based on a melody sung by a retired English miner, Mark Anderson. Beyond that, this traditional tune's origins are lost to time.


The members of the Scappoose High School Chamber Choir had a hand in selecting verses from among many well-known and lesser-known lyrics and writing additional fragments and stanzas, which were adapted to create richer characters and shape the story intertwining the two folk songs.

Scarborough Rose

SKU: SP239
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