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Old Abram Brown

About this tune

'Old Abram Brown is dead and gone,
You'll never see him more.

He used to wear a long brown coat,

That buttoned down before.'

No-one's quite sure where this mysterious old song came from or how old it is.

It may have been part of a mummers play where the actors sometimes went visiting from house to house.

Often one of them would pretend to be dead, then suddenly come back to life, so maybe Abram's OK really!

'buttoned down before' is an old fashioned way of saying his coat had buttons down the front. 

The English composer Benjamin Britten made a famous version of it for children's choir.


Benjamin Britten

1913 - 1976

Learn to play it

Learn to play it

There are four bits (phrases):

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Each bit starts on the last (4th) beat of the bar, so the count-in is just '1,2,3 '

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Low E to high E - just bend your thumb!

Play as smoothly (legato) as you can - no gaps between the notes - 

but make the last note of each phrase a bit shorter to fit the breaths in.

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'Dotted minim' - lasts for 3 beats

then repeat from the start.

And here's the complete tune. Sing it, then play it:

Play in a round

Playing a round

This tune works brilliantly as a 'round' because all the lines sound good together - listen and follow the score:

Each player starts from the beginning, coming in when the player before starts their second line - one line apart.

Because there are four lines you can have up to four players (or groups) starting in different places.

Sounds good with just two though. Try it with me - I'm going first, you're second, I'll count you in:

Here's a version for 1, 2, 3 and 4 players - a solo, a duet, a  trio and a quartet:

Posh words

The posh word for a round is a 'canon'. It sounds the same as 'cannon' but only has one 'n' in the middle.

Old Abram Brown is a canon. This is a cannon! 

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