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Monday, April 05, 2010

Burl Ives Favorites for Children

On a whim, I had picked up Burl Ives Favorites for Children a couple of months back...

D, with his banjo playing and bluegrass leanings, inadvertently helped me open up to and enjoy folk music (although I admit, it is not my favorite, thanks to growing up with sublime Carnatic Music). So we dutifully and enthusiastically introduced folk/bluegrass music to Ana at about two-ish and I still can picture her bobbing and swaying to a superbly energetic rendition of Little Sadie at the Chinook Salmon Festival Oxbow Park.

Now not all folk singers are alike (thankfully) and not all folk music is charming - at least in my mind. The same song by different performers have a different appeal. Each rendition, with its arrangement and nuances, of a particular song, seems to resonate differently even with the same cross-section of the audience. Anyway, what I am driving at is that Burl Ives' rendition of the four songs and stories in this CD collection has captured our hearts forever.

The CD is a collection of four stories and four songs, one song following one story. Each story is short and is narrated with a charming folksy edge that it is hard to restrict it to kids. Now the song that follows the story is basically about that story, set to music, with cleverly constructed lyrics that make some of the folk songs so cheeky and masterful at the same time.

My favorite song therein, the one I listened in repeat-mode for days even when kids weren't around, is The Tailor and the Mouse. The voice, the inflection, the arrangement, the tempo, the bare-yet-typical lyrics, and the mood - cheery, playful, light, all fit perfectly to make this brilliant for me. I admit, I am not sold on the Hi Diddle Dee songs and have heard my share of them that grew stale at the first listen, but, there's something about this particularly spare lyrics and Ives' style that made a deep impression. Perhaps it was the timing and the mood that did it for me.

And, incidentally, as a grad student, I was a die-hard fan of Pinky And The Brain show on TV right from its debut day. I remember raving about it to one and all. Many of my friends then dismissed it as cartoon for kids. Oh, but it was not. It was just brilliant. Anyway, it was short-lived and after the show went off the air, I have tracked down episodes, watching them on and off. I was pleasantly surprised to revisit this particular episode, especially right after I was smitten with Burl Ives' delivery of Tailor And The Mouse.

Also in the CD, Ives' presentation of the popular Mr.Froggy Went A-Courtin' is superb - the little touches in the arrangement and his power as a folksinger make this the best version of the song I have heard. So far. And it is very rewarding to catch Oggie humming along "Mhmm, Mhmmm, Mhm" at the right places in the song, making his best impression of a bobble-head doll.

Ana's favorites happen to be the Sailor And The Crocodile, as well as The Witch At The Well, story and song. The Witch At The Well, the first story in the CD, caught Ana's attention right away. And, she picked up the song easily - suitably substituting the words she couldn't quite catch from the CD.

Now, being terribly busy, D barely gets to keep up with what the kids do. Unless I supply a sort of daily highlights (usually via email as we are all in bed when he gets home and he is out by 5 am, before we wake up), he probably would miss a lot of things that kids do... and he does manage to catch up on certain weekends, dedicating a few hours to spend exclusively with them... and, of course, he feels all caught up now with the recent Spring Break :)

Anyway, one Friday evening when the CD had just come into her life, Ana sang along with Ives fairly nonchalantly, as if this was something secondary to munching her popcorn on and off, very neatly rendering the song, copying Ives with careless ease, while Oggie bobbed up and down and all around matching the tempo. D was flabbergasted! I have no idea if I was beaming, but I am sure I wanted to when I caught his quizzical expression and held up the CD cover for him, by way of explaining the evening's entertainment by his very own budding folksinger and her tag-along enthusiast :)

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At 10:15 PM, Blogger Playing by the book said...

I don't know Burl Ives (my excuse being that I'm too young -ha ha- and British!) but this CD sounds wonderful - I love banjoy music! I wonder if you might like this Woodie Guthrie CD

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

::Playing by the book:: Thanks, yes, Woodie Guthrie is somewhat of a legend... I guess the main reason I liked this particular CD is the stories are crisp, short, easy to follow for kids, and it inadvertently helped expand their vocabulary in the process (especially the older one's) :) And the songs are very catchy, easy, feet-tapping, fun, not somber...

And, no I hadn't listened to much of Burl Ives either until the recent past... and not all his other songs have the same appeal to me as I am soon finding out!

On a related note, we've been listening to story-telling/narration CDs during our commutes as that holds the kids' attention and takes the strain off me while driving to be the story-teller/entertainer... and gives a break from the variety of songs we listen to anyway... one of the recent ones we liked is Arnold Lobel story collection - was hoping to write a post on it soon :)

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

p.s:: In this context, another of Ana's favorites from about 2 years of age happens to be Wee Sing Fun 'n Folk (Pamela Con Beal and Susan Hagen Nipp) - the Wee Sing series. Some classic folk songs, but set to good tempo, full of energy.


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