Sheet Music: Oranges and Lemons

TitleOranges and Lemons
ComposerTraditional English
InstrumentationFlute solo
KeyC major
Time signature3/4
Tempo138 BPM
Performance time0:45
Difficulty leveleasy
Download printable scorePDF Sheet Music (47 kB) (preview)
Download audio tracksMIDI (change tempo/key) MP3 (352 kB)
Date added2019-08-24
Last updated2019-08-24
Download popularity index☆☆☆☆☆ 0.5 (below average)
Nursery rhymes, Traditional/Folk


There are no recordings for this tune yet. Submit yours!

Saturday 24 August 2019

Tune of the Day: Oranges and Lemons

Traditional English nursery rhyme

This traditional English nursery rhyme refers to the bells of several churches, all within or close to the City of London.

Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement's. You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin's.
When will you pay me? Say the bells at Old Bailey. When I grow rich,
Say the bells at Shoreditch.
When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney. I do not know,
Says the great bell at Bow.

The song is used in a children's singing game with the same name, in which the players file, in pairs, through an arch made by two of the players (made by having the players face each other, raise their arms over their head, and clasp their partners' hands). The challenge comes during the final lines:

Here comes a candle to light you to bed, Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

On the last word, the children forming the arch drop their arms to catch the pair of children currently passing through, who are then “out” and must form another arch next to the existing one. In this way, the series of arches becomes a steadily lengthening tunnel through which each set of two players has to run faster and faster to escape in time.

The song is one of the nursery rhymes most commonly referred to in popular culture. These include George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, where it is used as a snippet of nursery rhyme embodying the forgotten past that protagonist Winston Smith yearns for.

Thanks to Jan-Steyn for suggesting this tune!