Refrain

Musical notation for the chorus of "Jingle Bells" About this sound Play 

A refrain (from Vulgar Latin refringere, "to repeat", and later from Old French refraindre) is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse; the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

The use of refrains is particularly associated with where the verse-chorus-verse song structure typically places a refrain in almost each and every song. The refrain or chorus often sharply contrasts the verse melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, and assumes a higher level of dynamics and activity, often with added instrumentation. Chorus form, or strophic form, is a sectional and/or additive way of structuring a piece of music based on the repetition of one formal section or block played repeatedly.

Usage in history

In music, a refrain has two parts: the lyrics of the song, and the melody. Sometimes refrains vary their words slightly when repeated; recognizability is given to the refrain by the fact that it is always sung to the same tune, and the rhymes, if present, are preserved despite the variations of the words. Such a refrain is featured in "The Star-Spangled Banner," which contains a refrain which is introduced by a different phrase in each verse, but which always ends:

O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

A similar refrain is found in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which affirms in successive verses that "Our God," or "His Truth," is "marching on."

Refrains usually, but not always, come at the end of the verse. Some songs, especially ballads, incorporate refrains (or burdens) into each verse. For example, one version of the traditional ballad "The Cruel Sister" includes a refrain mid-verse:

There lived a lady by the North Sea shore,
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
Two daughters were the babes she bore.
Fa la la la la la la la la.
As one grew bright as is the sun,
Lay the bent to the bonny broom
So coal black grew the other one.
Fa la la la la la la la.
. . .

(Note: the refrain of 'Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' is not traditionally associated with the ballad of "The Cruel Sister" (Child #10). This was the work of 'pop-folk' group Pentangle on their 1970 LP Cruel Sister which has subsequently been picked up by many folk singers as being traditional. Both the melody and the refrain come from the ballad known as "Riddles Wisely Expounded" (Child #1).[citation needed])

Here, the refrain is syntactically independent of the narrative poem in the song, and has no obvious relationship to its subject, and indeed little inherent meaning at all. The device can also convey material which relates to the subject of the poem. Such a refrain is found in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "Troy Town":[1]

Heavenborn Helen, Sparta's queen,
O Troy Town!
Had two breasts of heavenly sheen,
The sun and moon of the heart's desire:
All Love's lordship lay between,
A sheen on the breasts I Love.
O Troy's down,
Tall Troy's on fire!
. . .

Phrases of apparent nonsense in refrains (Lay the bent to the bonny broom?), and solfege syllables such as fa la la, familiar from the Christmas carol "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly", have given rise to much speculation. Some believe that the traditional refrain Hob a derry down O encountered in some English folksongs is in fact an ancient Celtic phrase meaning "dance around the oak tree." These suggestions remain controversial.

Other Languages
aragonés: Estrebiello
беларуская: Рэфрэн
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Рэфрэн
català: Tornada
čeština: Refrén
dansk: Omkvæd
Deutsch: Refrain
eesti: Refrään
español: Estribillo
Esperanto: Refreno
euskara: Lelo
galego: Refrán
한국어: 후렴
Հայերեն: Կրկներգ
hrvatski: Pripjev
Ido: Refreno
italiano: Ritornello
עברית: רפרן
ქართული: რეფრენი
қазақша: Қайырма
Кыргызча: Кайырма
Lëtzebuergesch: Refrain
lietuvių: Priedainis
македонски: Рефрен
norsk: Refreng
norsk nynorsk: Omkved
polski: Refren
português: Refrão
română: Refren
русский: Рефрен
Scots: Refrain
Simple English: Refrain
slovenčina: Refrén
српски / srpski: Refren
suomi: Kertosäe
svenska: Refräng
Türkçe: Nakarat
українська: Приспів
中文: 副歌