Author: Dan Fox
File Under: Music
It’s good to make music with the family. Last week we talked about hymns and chants, but I don’t want you to think that I think things should be all spiritual, all the time.
If you didn’t grow up with the kind of songs that are featured in these resources I’m mentioning, then the best thing to do — really — better than despairing or feeling overwhelmed or giving up — is to buy a couple of CDs or if you are a child of this millennium perhaps download some albums? or however you say it — and just listen to them.
You’ll learn them and soon you’ll all be singing away.
If you learn folk and traditional music, you’ll give your children the gift of musical discernment. I know there is a big industry out there selling you new things, but before you partake, ground yourself in what’s time tested (as always!).
A great place to start with little children, actually, is on this new website called Little Songster. This young mom is uploading audio files of herself just singing — just like you would — simple songs that every child should know. So bookmark that!
You can see some of Elizabeth Mitchell’s videos on You Tube — she’s also recorded lots of children’s songs in an accessible way.
My generation and those a bit older listened to Burl Ives — I remember especially this album, Little White Duck And Other Children’s Favorites. Another old-timey album is Pete Seeger’s Children’s Concert At Town Hall. You wouldn’t want to imitate his politics, but the sound of his voice singing Oh Shenandoah defines an American moment. At least it defines it for me!
Children a bit older love Peter and the Wolf, and I particularly recommend the recording made with Arthur Godfrey. Others I’ve heard seem as if the artists involved are doing a day’s work, rather than actually enjoying the music. You can find it on iTunes. Children will learn to recognize the instruments in the orchestra through this delightful musical story, and on the other side of my record was a really fun recording of The Carnival of the Animals with Noel Coward reciting Ogden Nash’s verses, which he wrote to fit Saint-Saens’ music. But you don’t need the vinyl LP to hear it: it’s right here.
From the Wikipedia article on the piece:
In 1949, Ogden Nash wrote a set of humorous verses to accompany each movement for a Columbia Masterworks recording of Carnival of the Animals conducted by Andre Kostelanetz. Recited on the original album by Noël Coward, they are now often included when the work is performed. The conclusion of the verse for the “Fossils”, for example, fits perfectly with the punchline-like first bar of the music:
At midnight in the museum hall
The fossils gathered for a ball
There were no drums or saxophones,
But just the clatter of their bones,
A rolling, rattling, carefree circus
Of mammoth polkas and mazurkas.
Pterodactyls and brontosauruses
Sang ghostly prehistoric choruses.
Amid the mastodontic wassail
I caught the eye of one small fossil.
“Cheer up, sad world,” he said, and winked—
“It’s kind of fun to be extinct.”
If you can accompany simple songs on the piano, guitar, fiddle (like Pa) or (yes, do!) banjo, you need this: The Great Family Songbook: A Treasury of Favorite Show Tunes, Sing Alongs, Popular Songs, Jazz & Blues, Children’s Melodies, International Ballads, … Jingles, and More for Piano and Guitar.
That should get you started!
Do you have a favorite songbook or recording of traditional songs? Let us know in the comments!