Sur le Pont d’Avignon is a French song about the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge (also known as Pont Saint-Bénézet) that was built over the River Rhône in the 12th century, and lasted until 1688 when it was swept away by a great flood. The remains are a popular tourist attraction. The melody is especially well-known in Great Britain and North America, where children dance and act out the characters in each verse. The melody was first published by Ottaviano Petrucci in the Harmonice Musices Odhecaton in 1504. Adolphe Adam included the melody in his 1853 opéra comique Le Sourd ou l’Auberge pleine.
This piece is commonly used to practice finger 2 crossing over the thumb and thumb extensions away from the 5-finger position. Students will perhaps get their first experience changing time signatures and tempo, as the second section (“The gentlemen go this way …”) is in a slower triple meter.
The arrangement by James L. King III is effective and useful. The meter and tempo changes make this piece an especially good one for recital use.
Key: C Major
Mood: Happy, then theatrical
Pedagogy: finger crossings and finger extensions outside C position; fermatas; simple meter, tempo, and mood changes.