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Son Come Tell it unto Me

Son Come Tell It Unto Me

Curriculum: English, Traditional Tales; Local History; Music                                     Level: KS2  Y4 – Y6


  • Lyric Sheet
  • Recording
  • Video


Son come tell it unto me, is a traditional song collected in Gloucestershire in 1978 from Danny Brazil.  It is a local variation on a song known widely as Edward or Who Put The Blood?

The first written version dates to 1765, but it is thought to be much older and there were hundreds of versions found in England, Ireland and USA.  In some versions the song has references that might make one think that it dates from the middle ages, although it may be more recent and written in that style.

There are so many versions because the song has been passed on through the generations by oral tradition – people learning it from the singing of other people, rather than learning it from books.There are several tunes for this song.  Traditional singers would sometimes forget the original tune and make one up, or use a tune they already knew.

The Story

A mother notices blood on her son’s sleeve.  In some versions he at first blames it on his horse/hawk/hound, but in this version he owns straight up to it.  He admits to killing his brother in a minor squabble about an insignificant event.  When asked what he will do when his father comes home, he replies that before that happens he will flee the country.

The Song

This is a ballad.  A song that tells a story.  People would sing to entertain themselves, their friends and family.  There are many kinds of song, chorus songs for joining in, children’s songs, nonsense songs and ballads.  Ballads were a popular form of storytelling – the tradition of ballads goes back thousands of years.

The Style

The song is sung without any instruments – we call it ‘unaccompanied voice’.  This was a normal way to sing songs up until recently.  Some people sang backing themselves with folk instruments.  Singing with guitar only really goes back to 1930s.  Before that concertinas, melodeons (kind of accordion) and fiddle (violin) may have been used, but not often.

The Singer

Danny Brazil’s parents were Londoners, they moved to Ireland, then to Gloucester.  They were originally horse traders, but then became involved in scrap metal.  During World War II he was an ambulance driver serving in Poland, France and Holland.  He knew a large number of folk songs and had a tuneful voice, but his voicebox was damaged in a fight.  This left him with the croaky voice we hear on the recording.  He could also play the mouth organ.



Objectives: Introduce ballads (traditional tales in song form), introduce local cultural history (traditional songs & music)

Purpose: Experience a piece of local cultural history.  Learning a song by the oral process. Understanding and comprehending a ballad.

  1. Introduce the topic – ballads – songs that tell a story
  2. Think back to a time before television, radio, internet, computers, ipods, CD, mp3, smartphones, telephones. Before even electricity had been discovered.  How would you learn a ballad?
  • Introduce Danny Brazil
  1. Listen to the song
  2. What is this song about? Ask them to tell you the story
  3. Hand out the lyric sheets
  • Sing the song along with Danny
  • What is the construction of the song? (Question and answer song)
  1. Play the video and sing along
  2. Learn the song by next week – make the resources available.

Creative Writing

Purpose: Story analysis, reimagining a situation, using imagination to reassemble the story.

Outcomes: Increased understand of ballads, creative use of material, writing in different voices.

  1. Sing the song with Danny
  2. Discuss the song and its story
  • What are the details that you pick up about the song? Who are they?  Rich or Poor? Ages? Where are they? When was this?
  1. Write the song as a drama story or a newspaper report.
  2. Share the stories.


Purpose: Learning a song by heart, building confidence, singing in different characters

Outcomes: Knowing a traditional song that one can sing unaccompanied.  Singing in different arrangements

  1. Warm up the voices with a singing exercise.
  2. Sing the song all together with Danny or the Video.
  • Sing the song as a group.
  1. Share the parts – girls sing the mother part, boys sing the son’s part.
  2. Sing the parts in character.
  3. Could you sing a part (or a verse solo)?
  • Share the verses as solos or duets.
  • Could you sing the whole song yourself?
  1. Learn by heart.
  2. Could you sing it in a different style or to a different tune?


Purpose: using the song as a source for

Art: Draw or paint a scene or character from the song

IT: Make an animation (the repetitious format of the song enables you to re-use sections of animation).

Drama: Act out the story in prose style or as a musical -singing the parts

Film: Make ‘your own movie.