Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Children's music

I recall an afternoon last year when I sat pondering on just what type of person it takes to be a children's entertainer. To be constantly writing and singing those songs. I think I was looking at a picture of Barney or the Wiggles or something of the like (neither of which I am a fan).

And then something occurred to me: I am that type of person!

The pitch of Barney's voice drives me nuts. Singing "The Wheels on the Bus" makes me crazy. But I admittedly love to get up and dance to Raffi, or Sharon, Lois and Bram. More than that, I love spending time at the piano, a kid on each lap, playing away and singing to our hearts content the entire "Reader's Digest Children Songbook". Many of the songs that flood the children's music market today I steer completely away from. But I especially love children's songs that have been around for years, and finding ditties that haven't been popular in decades.

A few of my favourites:

Chickery Chick
The Dwarfs' Yodel Song
Father's Old Grey Whiskers
A Frog Went A-Courtin'
I've Been Workin' On the Railroad
The Little White Duck
Mairzy Doats
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow
On Top of Spaghetti
How Much is That Doggie in the Window
Waltzing Matilda
When I See an Elephant Fly

There's something about these old favourites that has really made them stand the test of time. Many of them are simultaneously nonsensical and lyrical: my favourite combination for children's entertainment. The melodies range from simple to complex. And none of them dumb themselves down to a ridiculous level of simplicity. There is nothing I can't stand more than literature that speaks down to children. I have learned how much my boys love to hear songs, stories and poetry that sing themselves along. For me, good writing expands a child's vocabulary instead of catering to an already established one. And above all: fantasy and imagination.

This collection of songs is my absolute favourite. I remember, during a course I took through the Royal Conservatory of Music about teaching music to children, learning that all children are born with a love of music; as they age, they learn to caress that love or leave it behind. If you're ever looking for a fun collection of music of all types, this is it.

(Oh yes, and I certainly cannot forget to mention "Tom the Toad", not found in this book. It is a parody of "O Christmas Tree" that encourages improvisation. An old favourite from my camp days, it sends Colin into fits of laughter. He loves to try and come up with his own rhymes. For your enjoyment, here it is, in all it's glory and grossness (always a hit with the boys):

O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?
O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?

You did not see that coming _______ (car; train; boat)
And now _____________________ (you're flattened on the tar; your head is oozing brain; your body is afloat)

O Tom the Toad, O Tom the Toad
Why did you jump into the road?

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