In viral times, here’s music for washing your hands

In viral times, here’s music for washing your hands


norman lebrecht

March 04, 2020

Coronavirus advice from the Boston Camerata, now going viral on their site:

We are advised, on good authority, that frequent washing of the hands is an excellent precaution against the day’s virus, and that singing “Happy Birthday” twice (circa 20 seconds) while doing so will help you time the process correctly.

Lest you be deterred, however, by the thought of having to perform that sappy tune twice in a row, Boston Camerata Labs (TM) suggest a few other washtime melodies that might time out acceptably, while giving somewhat more musical pleasure to the process. Our lab-tested examples hereby follow, in music-historical chronological order.

Moniot d’Arras (13th century): Ce fu en mai, 21 seconds
J. Dowland (1563-1626): Come again, sweet love (only once through the second phrase) 25 seconds
Franz Schubert (1797 -1828): Das Wandern ist der Müller’s Lust (one strophe), first song from the “Schöne Müllerin”: 22 seconds
Anon. 19th century: O My Darling Clementine (twice through) 20 seconds
W.C. Handy (1873-1958): Saint Louis Blues, just the minor key phrase with the diamond ring bit: 20 seconds

Enjoy your melodies! “Keep it clean!” — Eleanor of Aquitaine, to her troubadour Bernard:


  • Gustavo says:

    “Gesegnet sei, du Reiner, durch das Reine!
    So weiche jeder Schuld Bekümmernis von dir!”

  • Jim says:

    Das Waschen ist des Müllers Lust
    Das Waschen
    Das muß ein schlechter Müller sein,
    Dem niemals fiel das Waschen ein,
    Das Waschen

  • Nicolas says:

    Another suggestion:
    chorus of “Yellow Submarine”, a little bit under the tempo of the Beatles.

  • Gustavo says:

    “Irish Washerwoman”

    Happy World Women’s Day [March 8th] 😉

  • CYM says:

    At General Hospital, doctors, nurses, patients wash their hands listening to soap operas, followed by excerpts from Wagner’s rinse cycle, ending with Kurt Weill’s Drypenny Opera.

    • Gustavo says:

      Rinseky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bubblebee” also works well.

      Wagner can be a risk, causing doctors to lose their patients.

  • CYM says:

    Some prefer to listen to listen to Mimi’s ‘Die Aria’ in the dry area.