Listening to Britten – Fancie

Serin (c) Graham Catley, whose rather wonderful blog Pewit can be found here

Fancie for unison voices with piano (May 1965, Britten aged 51)

Dedication Marion (Harewood) Thorpe
Text William Shakespeare
Language English
Duration 1’10”

Background and Critical Reception

The original version of this song dates from 1961, and was a contribution from Britten to a number of Shakespeare settings intended for publication in Classical songs for children, with other contributions from Poulenc and Kodály.

This version was arranged approximately four years later for unison voices, with the option to divide into three if need be.

In his Britten Choral Guide for Boosey & Hawkes, Paul Spicer describes this song as ‘classic Britten: lovely singable lines, colourful piano part and a highly effective division into three parts at the end in the revised version.’


This is indeed a lovely little song, though if you blink for too long you’re likely to miss it!

The clear children’s’ voices ring out over the perky piano part, which paints a vivid impression of a peal of bells as the ‘ding dong bell’ refrain rings out from the children. And then, before you know it, the song is gone.

Recordings used

New London Children’s Choir / Ronald Corp, Alexander Wells (piano) (Naxos)

A really nice version, this, beautifully sung. The only recording of the song, too, it would seem!


Fancie can be heard here, part of an invigorating album from the New London Children’s Choir that includes A Ceremony of Carols and Friday Afternoons.

Also written in 1965: Tom Jones – What’s New, Pussycat?

Next up: Voices for Today, Op.75

This entry was posted in Choral, English, Listening to Britten, Songs, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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