Version 1 - Major


(Folk song from the Virgin Islands)

Four white horses on the river
Hey, hey, hey, up tomorrow
Up tomorrow is a rainy day
Come on and join our shadow play
Shadow play is a ripe banana
Hey, hey, hey, up tomorrow
Up tomorrow is a rainy day

Version 2 - Mixolydian

Hand-Clapping Game

Two sets of partners to form a square, partners stand across from each other.
Each number = 8 claps on the beat
Person with their back to the chalkboard & partner = A
Other two students = B

  • Ms. 1 – Students “A” do high five, Students “B” do “low five”
  • Ms. 3 – All clap own hands
  • Ms. 5 – “A” – low five, “B” – high five
  • Ms. 7 – All clap own hands
  • Ms. 9 – Turn to corner person, high five
  • Ms. 11 – Clap own hands
  • Ms. 13 – All clap “side five”

See also


  • Song with chords (2 versions) (PDF)
  • MIDI file
  • Listen to the song

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10 thoughts on “Four White Horses”

  1. Beth–my 5th graders had so much fun learning this, and rumor was they were practicing at recess too….and then I had 1st graders who said they knew some of it! The only thing is your numbers in the directions are notated incorrectly. Each movement is only 1 beat long; instead of one movement for each measure. I call the “lower” claps with partners crossing “under” instead of “low” otherwise my students flip their hands over and sometimes miss the clap…so just clapping under the other pair keeps them from aiming too low! The pattern I learned is similar, except instead of clapping a corner person, you extend both hands out to clap the people on either side of you. Beat 8 is clapping your own hands, and then the sequence repeats. I have a similar sequence using corners that goes with “Rockin’ Robin” by Michael Jackson. 🙂

    1. Good question! I do one of two things:
      – If there’s a group of three: I have a teddy bear who looks like Beethoven, (named “Bear-toven,” of course!), and I will give him to a group to dance with. I tell them what a great dancer he is. They have fun!
      – Or I will rotate people in and out. This is helpful, because if I see there’s a group where personalities aren’t getting along, I will rotate someone out of that group and put him/her in another group on the next turn. Also, if someone is misbehaving, then he/she must sit out until he/she is ready to come back.

    1. It doesn’t matter which person is their corner person. Sometimes the foursome just picks without arguing. For the other groups, I quickly walk around saying, “You two are corners, you two are corners…”

  2. Is there a version in the key of F? I have my students play the song on the xylophone (There is no F# on my xylophones) and this would be really helpful for them!

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