Category Archives: songs for children

Advent calendar: 7

Today I’ve got two great Christmas tunes for beginner piano players to enjoy — ‘Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!’ and ‘Frosty The Snowman’. This video will help you learn them by heart (there’s no music reading required). Have fun, and get everybody to join in and sing with you at Christmas time 🙂

Click here for more information on my music teaching.

Alice in Wonderland

Before I left Ireland last week, I took part in a school project in Daingean, County Offaly. It was funded by the Arts Council’s ‘Percent for Art’ scheme, which allows schools that have completed a new building to apply for an artwork to commemorate it. Usually this is a piece of visual art or poetry, but on this occasion it was an hour-long musical work devised by Aingeala de Burca and performed by every single child in the school (191 in total, I believe).

The theme was Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll’s grandson, Charles Dodgson, is buried in the town) and my role was to set the children’s words to music and also to play in the final performance. Aingeala and I have worked together on a number of similar projects over the past few years, but always under the auspices of other organisations. This was particularly exciting, as it was the first time I’d worked with Aingeala on something of her own.

It was interesting, too, coming in towards the end of the process. On a bigger budget project it might have been possible to have me come in to the school with Aingeala to help write the lyrics, but my role was more defined and I got the lyrics fully formed and was charged with composing musical settings of them. The lyrics were very well put together and I only made a few, very small changes in a couple of places. I visited the school once I’d written the songs and had the wonderful experience of auditioning them for the lyricists. They loved them and I think it was a moment of great relief for the teachers, too, as they finally began to see how this was all going to come together. It’s quite a tall order to ask teachers to commit to rehearsing a show while it’s being written!

We had songs about Mike the hedgehog (the royal croquet ball), Heather the flamingo (the royal croquet mallet), decapitation, Alice’s lake of frustrated tears after the ‘eat me drink me’ debacle, and the Mad Hatter’s tea party. There was also a refrain that the whole school sang at intervals throughout the show and lots of other music from the younger classes that Aingeala had done. It was a really wonderful show and a great way to finish up my work schedule. The way we did it made me think that I could easily work on something like that from afar, too…

Yo Gabba Gabba

Came across this funny article (via Twitter) about children’s programmes on Nickelodeon Jr. Now, I don’t have kids but I do work with little ones sometimes. The guy who wrote the article rates the shows’ songs and music, too, which I found interesting. His descriptions led me to check out Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! on YouTube…

I liked the slightly unexpected melody in the chorus and the harmonies. There’s an effect on the voice, too, that’s like when you add upper harmonics to an organ sound – a breathy doubling at the octave.

At the end of the article is another treat – Yo Gabba Gabba. He includes a YouTube clip from this show of a song called Party In My Tummy. Now I know catchy and *this* is catchy!

The angels appear to the shepherds

A friend of mine put this message on Facebook this morning:

Looking for an easy chorus for a small choir of very young angels to sing in a nativity when visiting shepherds…anyone?

As if I hadn’t procrastinated enough this morning, I got the guitar out and came up with this little offering.  Have a listen:  Key’s a bit low for little ones, maybe?  Any other thoughts?

A     F#m  E                       D
Fear not! You must be pretty scared
A       F#m E                                  D          E
We’re not something that you’re dreaming
A        F#m E                         D
We’ve got some amazing news to tell
A        F#m E                   D      E
There’s a king born in a stable

A  D          E         A       F#m Bm    E     D/F# E/G#
Hosanna in excelsis, Hosanna in excelsis
A  D          E         A       F#m Bm    E     D/F# E/G# A   D E A    A D E A
Hosanna in excelsis, Hosanna in excelsis           deo

I know you’ve never seen a halo
But now we’re off to see the baby
Your sheep will be fine, sure what do they know?!
You should really get a move on

Hosanna etc.

I reckon this could be fun to sing.  There’s definitely room for some actions 🙂

We’re going on a bear hunt

Yesterday I was teaching classes in Our Lady of Victories Infant School in Ballymun. We had been doing all kinds of stories and music about bears over the past few weeks. Goldilocks, a campfire song called ‘The other day I met a bear’ and – my favourite – Michael Rosen’s wonderful action-story ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’. His sing-song delivery is perfect for young children to copy.

If you are a teacher or a crèche worker and would like a music visit please get in touch 🙂

Some cute cards from kids last week

I did a project with a group of school kids last week in Offaly.  We wrote a song about the Pied Piper, ‘The Bargain’, which turned out rather nicely, ending with lots of angry faces and fist-waving!  I’m pleased with the middle section (“the rats were drowned…”) which has a bit of The Divine Comedy about it.  I taught it to the school choir I work with, too.

The mayor and piper, a bargain they made
“A fortune in guilders – five figures we’ll pay!
Get rid of the rats, they’re a plague on our heads.
They’re the curse of our town – play your pipe ’til they’re dead!”

He led the rats to the river bank
And he played his pipe ’til the last one sank
The rats were drowned, the town was free,
The piper returned to collect his fee…

“Dear Mayor,” said Piper, “a bargain we made.
A fortune in guilders you promised to pay…”
The hideous, flatulent, double-faced mayor
Said “Here’s fifty guilders – we feel that is fair.”

“You are a loser and I am a winner,
I am a saint and you are a sinner.
This is not the end!
This is not the end!
I will have revenge!
I will have revenge!”

We also did raps – here’s the one I did with my group:

Let me tell you ’bout those rats
Some of them were fat, some of them were thin
Some of them were tawny, some lived in a bin
One of them – he was bigger than a cat
Now what do you think of that?!
Another one – hmmmm, he didn’t look so good
And the smell of him was pretty rancid, too.
Let me try to explain
This smell was insane
Now that I think of it I’m in pain
This odour brought tears to my eyelids
Imagine a sandwich left years ‘fore you find it
Under the fridge or behind a chair
Ugh! I bet you’re glad you weren’t there!

Great fun!  When we’d done our final performance on the Friday, they presented each of us with a little bundle of thank you cards – very sweet 🙂

last month in a nutshell

It has been a very busy four weeks since I last posted something.  Here are some highlights:

  • the first stage of the Infant Imaginings project drew to a close.  Helene Hugel and I have been working on a number of fifteen-minute pieces for babies (between three and twenty-four months) over the past while and we presented them last week in Tallaght Community Arts Centre and in a health clinic.  All being well (i.e. if the funding comes through!) we’ll be developing our work further in the second half of next year.
  • I met a singer-songwriter who I really enjoyed – Audrey Ryan, from Maine.  The first time was at a singer-songwriter night in The Stables in Mullingar where I was playing with Hamlet.  It was Halloween, she played ‘The Monster Mash’ (it caught on in a flash, for your information).  Second time was at The Song Room the following week and she’d been up all night watching Obama win the election.
  • I did a schools project in Navan and wrote a lovely song for the kids to sing (which I’ll post soon).
  • New Dublin Voices did two concerts which featured the beautiful choral music of Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, a Finnish composer.  The choir sang one of his pieces last year, the exquisite Die Stimme des Kindes, and we reprised that and two of the works that helped make him one of the very best composers writing for mixed voice choirs today: Canticum Calamatatis Maritimae and Four Shakespeare Songs.  I urge you to download this stunning version of Die Stimme des Kindes performed by the all-male American choir, Chanticleer.
  • Hamlet played his Bewley’s theatre gig to a nicely-packed room backed by ‘The Handsome Strangers’ – me on keys/cajon/backing vocals, Barry Rycraft on double bass and Satya Darcy on drums.  There are some videos on Hamlet’s Facebook group, which you can join for updates on his musical adventures.  Next on the horizon is the recording this weekend of his debut EP…

Scoil Angela

The 5th class girls from Scoil Angela, Thurles

Here are my fellow songwriters and rappers, who we worked with last week in Thurles. The final performance – for their parents and the rest of the school – went really well. Aingeala conducted the half-hour concert which began with all the girls simulating the rhythm of a heart beat and moved through different sections. They did some improvisation over some grooves that we’d been working on during the week. Each girl had a percussion instrument and another instrument – between them they had tin whistles, flutes, violins, a guitar, a harp and three keyboards. The rap and the song went really well and the audience gave them a huge, well-deserved ovation at the end.

In June, they’ll come to Dublin and perform some of their pieces with the other schools that have had projects this year. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a recording of them singing the song but here’s a version I recorded in my hotel room last week to give you an idea: