"Sumer Is Icumen In" is an old English Folk Song which dates from the middle of the 13th Century. The original song was set out as a Round (or more specifically a "Rota") where up to 4 voices or groups can enter the song a bar apart. In addition there are 2 further parts or voices which sing something similar to a ground bass consisting of two alternating bars which are repeated throughout the song. This 6-part complexity is unusual in medieval compositions, and the manuscript is held by the British Library. The manuscript shows a single part (plus the repeated bars in the bass) and has instructions in Latin explaining how to sing the round. The lyrics are in a dialect of Middle English and the first sentence "Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!" means "Summer has come in, Loudly sing, Cuckoo!". Since words are difficult for computers to render, we have illustrated the song using a recorder ensemble consisting of 4 Descant (or Soprano) Recorders and 2 Treble (or Alto) Recorders. The sheet music for these 6 parts and the full score can be downloaded using the links at the left, as well as mp3 and midi files. For pianists we also have an arrangement of Sumer Is Icumen In for Piano.
A number of groups, choirs and composers have arranged and performed different versions of this song. Here is one of many versions available on Youtube sung by the Greenleaf Singers. Perhaps the most memorable use of the song is a version called "Sumer Is A-Cumen In" sung at the climax of the 1973 film The Wicker Man. This was arranged by composer Paul Giovanni with words adapted by Peter Shaffer. The song has also appropriately been sung at Beltane events, modern versions of an ancient Gaelic tradition celetrating the coming of summer and usually held in the early hours of 1st May. For more folk songs see our article about Folk Music and Songs with more examples.