The Happy Wanderer

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The original recording by the Obernkirchen Children's Choir

"The Happy Wanderer" ("Der fröhliche Wanderer" or "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann") is a popular song. The original text was written by Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1791–1877).[1][2]

The present tune was composed by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller shortly after World War II. The work is often mistaken for a German folk song, but it is an original composition. Möller's sister Edith conducted a small amateur children's and youth choir in the district of Schaumburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany, internationally named Obernkirchen Children's Choir, in Germany named Schaumburger Märchensänger.[3] She adapted Sigismund's words for her choir.[1]

In 1953, a BBC radio broadcast of the choir's winning performance at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod turned the song into an instant hit. On 22 January 1954 the song entered the UK singles chart and stayed on the chart—only a Top 12 at the time—for 26 non-consecutive weeks, peaking at Number 2 (for five consecutive weeks). The amateur choir, many of whose original members were war orphans, turned into an international phenomenon in the following years. The group performed on many international tours under the name Obernkirchen Children's Choir and recorded several albums. They made two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (29 November 1964 and 11 December 1966).[4]

Die Isarspatzen, Herbert Beckh und das Tanzorchester des Bayerischer Rundfunks München have recorded a German version of the song "Der fröhliche Wanderer". Electrola released that recording in 1955 as catalog number EG 8082.[5][6][7]

The song's German lyrics have been translated into several languages, and it has since become a choir classic. The first adaptation into another language was done by a Belgian woman, Andrée Mazy, who came up with versions in Dutch-Flemish and French.[8] Since in Dutch folk songs "valderi-valdera" (pronounced "falderi-faldera") is more common than the German "falleri-fallera", she used the Dutch model in both versions. When Antonia Ridge was writing the English lyrics,[8] she became acquainted with the French version of the song, with "valderi-valdera", pronounced with a true soft /v/ instead of the voiceless /f/, and borrowed it over into the English version mainly for euphonic reasons (less military sounding).[9] During WWII, a more military version of the song became immensely popular with the German paratroopers.[10] Although Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller reportedly composed "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann" shortly after World War II, Steven Spielberg's 1993 historical drama film, Schindler's List, contains a scene in which a group is singing the tune, mixed with another German folk song, in a nightclub during that war.[11]

Milton DeLugg wrote an arrangement and is sometimes incorrectly credited as the composer of the song. A number of English-language sources credit Edith Möller and Florenz Siegesmund with writing the words, the implication being (apparently) that they were written at the same time as the tune. However, the German sources all credit the original words to either Friedrich Sigismund,[12][13] F. Sigismund,[14] or Florenz Friedrich Sigismund[2] and give the dates as either 1788–1857 or early 19th century.[15] All German sources agree that the words to the popular version were adapted by Edith Möller.

The song also became the unofficial anthem of Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos (since relocated to become the Washington Nationals).[16][17]

"The Happy Wanderer" was selected as the winner of Trinidad's 1955 Road March title, awarded to the song which was most played by steelbands during that year's Carnival season.[18] It was the only time a non-calypso song had been awarded this honour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann," on Volksliederarchiv Archived 2013-10-21 at the Wayback Machine (+score)
  2. ^ a b Widmaier, Tobias. "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann". Volkslieder als Therapie bei Demenzerkrankungen (Alzheimer) (in German). Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  3. ^ "Herzlich willkommen". Musikschule Schaumburger Märchensänger. Archived from the original on 2019-01-19. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  4. ^ "Obernkirchen Children's Choir". Portland, Oregon. 2019. Archived from the original on July 28, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  5. ^ "Electrola: Der Froliche Wanderer: EG 8082" (image). Portland, Oregon: Discogs. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  6. ^ "Die Isarspatzen – Der Fröhliche Wanderer (Val-De-Ri-Val-De-Ra)". Portland, Oregon: Discogs. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Der fröhliche Wanderer". Bibliotheks und Informationssystem: Sammlung Schellack-Platten - Deutsches Rundfunk-Archiv. Oldenburg, Germany: Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Published Music: Catalog of Copyright Entries, 3rd Series, Vol. 9, Part 5A, No 1, P. 185, EFO-32388, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, January–June 1955.
  9. ^ "Happy Wanderer". Scout Songs. Archived from the original on 2016-12-18. Retrieved 2017-09-18.
  10. ^ Niedermeier, Hans (1983). Liederbuch der Fallschirmjäger. Bund Deutscher Fallschirmjäger.
  11. ^ "Schlinders_happy_wanderer.MOV". Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved December 24, 2019 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "Der fröhliche Wanderer". German folksong site maintained by Frank Petersohn in Canada. Archived from the original on 2014-02-09. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  13. ^ "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann". Der Bierprügel Die Seite für Studentisches Liedgut. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013.
  14. ^ Anding, Johann Michael. "Eine Seite von Hildburghäusern für Hildburghäuser". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  15. ^ "Search for 'mein vater war ein wandersmann'". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  16. ^ Fischer, Doug (April 6, 2015). "The Montreal Expos: How the team of the '80s became nostalgia's team". The Ottawa Citizen. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2019. I was in Cooperstown that weekend [of the 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony]. I saw the Expos caps and sweatshirts on the village streets and in the bars, and the around-the-block lineups to get a Tim Raines autograph. I heard the Let's Go Expos chants and even a few choruses of the old team anthem, The Happy Wanderer — Valderi, Valdera, Valder-iiiii, Valder-ha-ha-ha-ha — coming from fans scattered on the lawn chairs at the induction ceremony.
  17. ^ Cowan, Stu (September 10, 2013). "Will Big O fans sing 'Val-deri, Val-dera!' for Jays vs. Mets?". The Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on December 15, 2019. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  18. ^ "Calypso/Soca Road March - Trinidad and Tobago - 1932 to Present".

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