Jolly Sailors

by Donna Rhodenizer

Another Fun Song for Young Singers (ages 12 and under) 

Jolly Sailors by Donna Rhodenizer

Sail into a fun mini musical-theatre song with young singers ages 12 and under. The main character of this song is a jolly soul, and happy to be a sailor despite the lumpy stew and the snorty snores that must be endured aboard the ship.

Jolly Sailors is perfect for young singers with the desire to sing an expressive storytelling song and start developing their theatrical talents. Collect a few nautical props to enhance the musical presentation and get ready to entertain the listening audience with a theatrical performance of Jolly Sailors.

Lyrics - Jolly Sailors - by Donna Rhodenizer

Click on the lyrics and sing along

Melody guide + accompaniment

Bonus accompaniment (piano + accordion)


Audio Tracks

     - Melody guide + accompaniment

     - Accompaniment only

     - Bonus accompaniment (piano + accordion)

Print Pages

     - Vocal score

     - Full score

     - Printed lyrics (both options)

For the Teacher

     - Teaching Strategies

     - Blog post pdf

Tongue Twister warm-up song: Seven Sassy Sailors

     - 3-phrase sample with teaching strategies


Jolly Sailors supports young singers with developing voices.

  • Jolly Sailors is a three-verse song, making it most suitable for young singers who have had previous experience.
  • A short re-intro is included between each verse providing a bit of “breathing space” and the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming verse.
  • Vocal range of an octave (D4-D5) with most of the song well placed in the mid range and only one short reach into the upper range.
  • Jolly Sailors is a great length for use at a summer music theatre camp or for teachers looking for songs that are a bit shorter to use throughout the year.
  • The three-verse structure can work with younger students in group classes, assigning different verses to different combinations of students within the group.

Teaching Strategies

   Expressive Singing

  • Encourage singers to read the lyrics out loud before learning the melody. 
  • Discuss the story of the song.
  • Have the singers ever wished they could sail around the world on a ship?
  • Would they like to be the captain in charge of all the crew?
  • How do they feel about eating lumpy stew or sleeping in bunk beds near other crew members who snore?
  • Discuss which words the singer will emphasize to create an expressive performance.
  • What consonants need to be crisp and clean to clearly tell the story for the listening audience?
  • Look for the word groups that provide a chance to emphasize similar sounding vowels or consonants (funny, bumpy lumps and loud, snorty snores).
  • Add dynamics or other musical contrasts to sing the song expressively.
  • Jolly Sailors is a high energy, humorous song. Have fun with it!


   Understanding the meaning of the lyrics helps the students when they are presenting the “story” of the song.

  • Have students read the lyrics and find any words that they do not understand.

   Tongue Twister warm-ups

   Jolly Sailors has some tricky lyrics to master (check out bars 6 and 10).

   To help your singers warm up and have some fun, try the tongue twister:

   Seven sassy sailors sailed the seven salty seas.

   (This is included with the PDF download.)

  Say the tongue twister using crisp consonants.

  • Set a metronome at a slow tempo and say the tongue twister.
  • Say the tongue twister multiple times and gradually increase the speed each time.

 Sing the tongue twister warm up.

  • Sing the whole tongue twister on each note of the scale.
  • Add actions: hold up seven fingers for the number 7, salute on the word sailor, and make wave motions with your hands on the word “seas”.
  • Eliminate the words with actions, but continue to do the action associated with the missing word. (This is a challenge!)

Theatrical Elements

  • Add actions to enhance the theatrical presentation of Jolly Sailors. Remember, the musical presentation is still the focal point of the performance. Actions need to support the song, not “take over” or detract from the singing.
  • When presenting Jolly Sailors for a recital or school performance, add a few props or costumes to add visual interest to the performance.
  • A mop and pail
  • A bowl of fake stew
  • A hat or uniform (captain or crew!)
7 Sassy Sailors

Other Performance Options 

  • Younger students may sing Jolly Sailors as a unison group performance. Assign each student one of the verses to learn to be the “anchor” for their verse, although all students will sing all verses.
  • Singing the entire song with a small group in unison may be enough support for younger students to manage the lyrics for all three verses.

Composer’s Corner

I have always loved the ocean. However, there are very few spots in Nova Scotia where the Atlantic Ocean affords warm water for swimming. I prefer to sit or walk on the beach and enjoy looking at the waves. On a VERY hot day I might walk in the water up to my ankles. I have also discovered that being on a boat in the middle of the ocean causes me to become seasick! My love for the ocean is not diminished, I just know that it is best if I enjoy it from a vantage point on the shore!

Donna with Jolly Sailor

Composer, Elementary Music Specialist

Donna Rhodenizer

Donna Grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where no matter where you are, you are never more than 56 kilometres (approximately 35 miles) from the ocean! This might be why Donna is inspired to use the ocean as a theme in some of her songs. Jolly Sailors is a great example of the high energy, humorous songs Donna enjoys writing for upper elementary school singers (age 8-12). Over her 37-year career as an elementary music educator, Donna has written many songs in this style which have been premiered by her Grade 4-5 choir. Adding costumes and a few props and letting the students bring their unique energy to the presentation, creates a fun performance for both the singers and the audience.

Donna has written over five hundred songs including repertoire for solo singers, choirs, and school groups, as well as songs for recorder, violin, handbells, piano, and organ. Donna’s music has found a place in the hearts and music libraries of music teachers and students around the world.

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