8 German Rounds for Children and Adults

German Cannons for Kids

The Matterhorn seen from Domhütte. Image courtesy of Zacharie Grossen via Wikimedia commons

Rounds are a fun way to introduce children to singing and harmonizing. German has a plethora of appropriate ones for children and adults learning German as a second language. These seven rounds are short and easy to memorize, as well as fun to sing. Since German is one of the main languages classical singers are expected to learn, any aspiring singers taking the art seriously will benefit from becoming familiar with it.

Oh, wie wohl ist mir am Abend

One of my favorites as a child, because it is also round. I could imagine an American German choir walking into a traditional church holding candles while singing this short song as they file onto the stage. I also have fond memories myself of singing, “Frere Jacques,” in several languages in Elementary school, which was my first introduction to harmony. This simple tune could be used in the same way.

Abendstille überall

Another simple round with words that might become a child’s favorite as well as a nighttime tradition. The words are simple: “Overall is evening stillness, only the nightingale on the stream sings in her way, mournfully and quiet, through the vale. Sing, sing, sing Mrs. Nightingale.” The nightingale is often mentioned in poetry and works both in English and German.

Alles schweiget

I have personal memories of my favorite aunt teaching this to me and singing it as a family when I was in college. The first section of the round is slower harmonic background to the two second sections that sing mostly in thirds together. It is lovely and similar to “Abendstille überall,” The lyrics describe how the silence of night is interrupted by the mournful song of the nightingale.

Der Hahn ist tot

Most rounds I know of are serious. Not this one! The title means, “The Rooster is Dead,” and laments that he can no longer crow. The round creates harmonies of thirds with one another. I find it particularly interesting how German has different human sounds representing animals than English speakers do. For instance, the rooster in English says, “Cocka-doodle-doo!” and in this German song, “Kokodi Kokoda!” though most of the time I here, “kikeriki.” Many of the animal sounds are similar to English speakers: dogs say “wau wau,” cats “miau,” cows, “muh,” donkeys, “i-ah,” sheep, “mäh or bäh,” birds, “piep piep,” and owls “hu hu.”

Heut ist ein Fest bei den Fröschen am See

Another fun round that babies particularly love. My translation reads, “Today is party day for frogs at the ocean, dance and concert, and a big dinner, Quak, quak.” Again note that frogs say quak in German, while in English they say ribbit. Interestingly, ducks also quak in German. At the end of the round, it is fun to make quacking noises not attached to a melody, so kids laugh.

Froh zu sein bedarf es wenig

The shortest round on the list, the words read, “To be happy needs little, and when you are happy, you are a king.” I am partial to songs having a message or teaching a lesson. Though this is a short one, it does make a point. This little folk song with its moral lessons says something about German culture and what is valued.

Trara, das tönt wie Jagdgesang

Just like the other rounds, this one is short and simple, but it represents an entire genre of German folk tunes: hunting songs. Many cultures in Europe went on group hunts with several traditions including hunting dogs and horses. This folk tune reveals another tradition related to the hunt. My translation of the words are: “Hoop-la, that sounds like a hunting song, how wild and happy the horn rings, like a hunting song, like a ringing horn, hoop-la, hoop-la, hoop-la.” This little song reveals that hunting horns were used, which is something most know little about. The nonsense words “hoop-la” are “trara,” in the original.