|English title||"Brother John"|
Frère Jacques (/
The French lyrics, their literal translation, and traditional English lyrics are in the following table.
|French lyrics||English translation||Traditional English lyrics|
The traditional translation preserves the musicality of the original, but greatly distorts the meaning. The whole point is that the bells are not ringing, because Brother John, who is supposed to ring them, is sleeping.
The song concerns a monk's duty to ring the bell for matines. Frère Jacques has apparently overslept, it is time to ring the bell for matines, and someone wakes him up with this song.
In English, the word friar is derived from the Old French word frere (Modern French 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), as claimed by Irvine Loudon and many others, was explored by J. P. Ganem and C. C. Carson without finding any evidence for a connection.
Martine David and A. Marie Delrieu suggest that Frère Jacques might have been created to mock the Dominican friars, known in France as the Jacobin order, for their sloth and comfortable lifestyles.
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.
Sheet music collector James Fuld (1916–2008) states that the tune was first published in 1811, and that the words and music were published together in Paris in 1869. An earlier publication in 1825 included the words together with a description of the melody in solfège, but not in musical notation. 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. This book was very popular and it was republished several times, so many editions exist.
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.
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, which was first published around 1615 - "Fra Jacopino" is one potential Italian translation for "Frère Jacques". 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.
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.
In popular culture
- Landes, David S. (1998). The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. New York: W. W. Norton. p. 48.
- "friar". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Jacques BAULOT
- Bourdin, E. (1917). Un célèbre lithotomiste franc-comtois: Jacques Baulot dit Frère Jacques (1651–1720). Besançon.
- Loudon, Irvine (2001). Western Medicine. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924813-3.
- Ganem, JP; Carson, CC (April 1999). "Frère Jacques Beaulieu: from rogue lithotomist to nursery rhyme character". Journal of Urology. 161 (4): 1067–1069. doi:10.1016/s0022-5347(01)61591-x. PMID 10081839.
- Draughon, Francesca; Knapp, Raymond (Fall 2001). "Mahler and the Crisis of Jewish Identity". ECHO. 3 (2).
- Refrains d'enfants, histoire de 60 chansons populaires, Martine David, A. Marie Delrieu, Herscher, 1988.
- Gregg, Richard (June 1974). "Review of Koz'ma Prutkov: The Art of Parody by Barbara Heldt Monter". Slavic Review. 33 (2): 401–402. doi:10.2307/2495856.
- La Cle du Caveau a l'usage de tous les Chansonniers francais, Paris, 1811
- Fuld, James J. (1995). The Book of World Famous Music Classical, Popular, and Folk. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-28445-X.
- 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.
- the C. stands for Cie., which in English would be Co. or Company
- "Frère Jacques" a été composé par Jean Philippe Rameau
- Frescobaldi: Harpsichord Works, composer: Jacques Arcadelt, Girolamo Frescobaldi; Performer: Louis Bagger. Audio CD (August 28, 2001)
- Frescobaldi: Toccate & Partite, Libro Primo, Todd M. McComb
- Fra Jacopino has additional historical importance. The half note and quarter note are reported Archived 2006-09-16 at the Wayback Machine to have first appeared in Frescobaldi's publication of Fra Jacopino.
- Kilenyi, Edward (January 1919). "The Theory of Hungarian Music". Musical Quarterly. 5 (1): 20–39. doi:10.1093/mq/v.1.20.
- From Mozart to Mao to Mozart--Western Music in Modern China, Barbara Mittler, Rethinking cultural revolution culture, Heidelberg, 22-24.2.2001