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 (1788-1857).[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 actually an original composition. His sister Edith Möller conducted a small amateur children's and youth choir in Schaumburg County, Northern 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 January 22, 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).

With the BBC's strong international influence "The Happy Wanderer" turned up everywhere, e.g., as the winning song of the 1955 calypso road-march season of the Trinidad Carnival. People protested after this event and complained that only calypsos should be chosen over foreign music.

The amateur choir, many of whose original members were war orphans, turned into an unlikely 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 (November 29, 1964, and December 11, 1966).

Die Isarspatzen, Herbert Beckh und das Tanzorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks have also recorded a German version. That version was made in Munich on June 16, 1954. It was released by Electrola as catalog number EG 8073.

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.[4] 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,[5] 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).[6][7]

Milton DeLugg wrote a noted 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,[8][9] F. Sigismund,[10] or Florenz Friedrich Sigismund[2] and give the dates as either 1788-1857 or early 19th century.[11] All German sources agree that the words to the popular version were adapted by Edith Möller.


  1. ^ a b "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann," on Volksliederarchiv (+score)
  2. ^ a b TOBIAS WIDMAIER: "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann," on Volkslieder als Therapie bei Demenzerkrankungen (Alzheimer)
  3. ^ "Herzlich willkommen bei der Musikschule Schaumburger Märchensänger!"
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Published Music: Catalog of Copyright Entries, 3rd Series, Vol. 9, Part 5A, No 1, P. 185, EP86723-24, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, January–June 1955.
  6. ^ "Happy Wanderer". Scout Songs.
  7. ^ During WWII, a more military version of the song became immensely popular with the German paratroopers (Hans Niedermeier, Liederbuch der Fallschirmjäger. Bund Deutscher Fallschirmjäger, 1983).
  8. ^ [1] "Der fröhliche Wanderer," on a German folksong site maintained by Frank Petersohn in Canada
  9. ^ [2] "Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann," on Der Bierprügel Die Seite für Studentisches Liedgut
  10. ^ [3] Anding, Johann Michael, on Eine Seite von Hildburghäusern für Hildburghäuser
  11. ^ [4] Search for "mein vater war ein wandersmann" on

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