Sunday, December 2, 2012

Various Handclap Routines For "Miss Mary Mack"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post features seven videos that showcase different handclap routines for the rhyme "Miss Mary Mack".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, and entertainment purposes.

By presenting multiple videos I hope to emphasize the fact that there isn't just one "right" way of performing handclap routines for "Miss Mary Mack" or for any other handclap rhyme. That said, there may be a certain routine that is most often used for a specific handclap rhyme among the children [usually females] in that neighborhood, and that same routine or a very similar routine might also be favored in other communities, and even in other nations across the world.

It appears that the most common "Miss Mary Mack" handclap routine is the one in which two people stand [or sit] facing each other, and do the following hand movements:
1. Each partner crosses [criss crosses] both their hands and lightly taps their own chest
2. Each partner clap her [or his] own hands
3. Partner #1 claps her right hand to the left hand of partner #2
4. Each partner clap their own hands
5. Partner #1 claps her left hand to the right hand of partner #2.
6. [optional] Partner #1 claps her two hands to partner #2's two hands

Repeat this same routine on the beat without pausing throughout the entire time the rhyme is sung.

An also commonly found handclap routine for "Miss Mary Mack" is for both partners to criss cross both their hands and lightly taps their own chest, and then pat their own thighs* before doing steps 2-5 or 2-6.

*It's important that the same pattern is done throughout the entire recitation of the rhyme. If you start the pattern of patting your thighs, you have to continue doing so throughout the entire routine.

Also, as shown in these videos, some partners don't do the criss cross chest tap before they alternate the one hand clap.

Each of the videos in this post feature these words for "Miss Mary Mack":

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black black black
With silver buttons buttons buttons
All down her back back back.

She asked her mother mother mother
For fifty* cents cents cents
To see the elephant elephant elephant
Jump over the fence fence fence

He jumped so high high high
[that] He touched the sky sky sky
And he never came back back back
Till the fourth of July ly ly
-multiple sources, including my childhood memories of Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1950s

*I said "fifteen cents" when I was a child, but it appears that most children nowaday say "fifty cents".

Other versions of "Miss Mary Mack" are given on this page of my cocojams website:

[These videos are presented without any performance instructions.]

Example #1: Miss Mary Mack [tutorial]

hamsterteacher, Uploaded on Apr 29, 2010
A tutorial on how to play Miss Mary Mack...
The tune that is used is slightly different from what I’ve familiar with, and the tempo is much slower than what I’m used to.

Example #2: Asphalt Angels Play Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack

kidsplayunplugged, Uploaded on Dec 12, 2010

Summer memories 2010- Our little "asphalt angels" practice Miss Mary Mack
Visit us at

Example #3: Fun hand games

fatcat123455, Uploaded on Dec 24, 2011

old school hand games from way back.. can u remember any more??? i got like 10 of them bo seantin tatin 2.miss mary mack
3. i dont want to go to mexico 4.tweet tweet tweet mother your mother 6. down down baby 7. little sally walker 8.double double this this 9. ini mini sicilini
10. i went to a chineese restaurant 11. ce ce my play mate
"old school" is African American slang [since around the 1980s?]for something that was done in the past, particularly some music or dance. Usually "old school isn't considered a negative, unlike calling a way of doing something "old fashioned".

The "Miss Mary Mack" rhyme begins at .30 to .53.
Notice that one of the girls isn’t standing stiff but is bouncing while she recites the rhyme, and does the slap chest/clap partner's hand pattern.

Example #4: Miss Mary Mac!

evrlastingbeauti, Uploaded on Sep 26, 2007

Gabrielle and Michaela playing miss mary mac after Lisa's High School graduation. Amelia puts in an apperance towards the end of this short clip.
The “you’re out” ending is not one that I’m familiar with.

Example #5: Miss Mary Mack

3perrykids, Uploaded on Dec 3, 2008

the kids clapping to a rhyme, Miss Mary Mack.

Example #6: Miss Mary Mack

af2009af2009, Uploaded on Dec 20, 2009

Atara's Winter Concert
The woman singing "Miss Mary Mack" along with these children does a soulful rendition of that rhyme.

Example #7: Hailey and Julie Singing Miss Mary Mack

arlenebabb53, Uploaded on Jul 13, 2008
The girls sing say .25 cents instead of the [now] most common .50 cents. They also sing “la la la la” at the end, which is something they may have added just for fun.

Click this page of my cultural website for other text versions and videos of "Miss Mary Mack":

That page also includes my comments about various theories about the sources the "Miss Mary Mack" rhyme and the meaning of certain words in that rhyme such as "going to see the elephant".
Click for several more videos of children and teens performing "Miss Mary Mack".
for a pancocojams post on "Miss Mary Mack" - Sources, Theories, Early Versions, & Other Comments

Also, read performance instructions for a version of "Miss Mary Mack" in Kyra Gaunt's book Games Black Girls Play [Google Books, page 63]

Thanks to all those who performed "Miss Mary Mack" in these featured videos. My thanks also to the uploaders of these videos.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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