Thursday, May 7, 2015

In Search of Some Good [Baby] Tunes

Heath Street Baptist Church, Ewan King
Ewan on the thumb piano (?) with harmonicist and John Henry on the bass in the background singing "Twinkle, Twinkle"

Call me a music snob.

It's not my fault: as a ten year old, my violin teacher would spend 15 minutes each lesson asking me whether a note he was playing was sharp or flat, and by how much.  Torturous, but it left its mark on my musical ear.  Unwittingly, I have perfect relative pitch (nothing compared to my little sis' *perfect* pitch, though!).

Additionally, I practiced - initially involuntarily until I learned Chopin - for thousands of hours till into my late teens, on piano, violin, viola, recorder (don't laugh, it's a real instrument).  I don't count myself a vocalist, but I dabble.

All of that ear training and practicing has many consequences.  Unfortunately, one of them is a high intolerance for typical baby music.  I find it unbearably painful, but don't want my munchkins to suffer culturally or not know "Eensy Weensy Spider" because I can't stomach the music.

Enter Ewan King, Baptist minister of the Heath Street Baptist Church in Hampstead, and his unparalleled Old Time Nursery.  Ewan and his two side kicks, John Henry and [that fabulous harmonica player that runs a theatre in Hampstead whose name eludes me at the moment] research, re-compose, and perform classic English (as in, any country that speaks English, plus a Japanese single) nursery folk songs in a live, free baby concert on a weekly basis  (did I mention that it is free?).  Last week I think I counted at least ten different instruments used in rotation by the three performers.

See what you think of their rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus":


The energy of the class is remarkable.  The place teems with babies and toddlers, many of them dancing, clapping, and smiling.  But, unlike many other rhyme times I've attended, the bubs aren't the only ones: Mums, dads, grandmas, and designated carers are tapping toes, smiling, and shaking whatever isn't holding their bub. I go home humming and tapping and singing whatever I can remember, trying to recapture the magic of the class.

Yet I forget - how did that tune go? What were the lyrics?  Ewan will often offer a musical new mum the sheet music of the folk music treasure he's found in the Cecil Sharp House archives, but he's actually recomposed it beyond recognition, and replication at home becomes hard.

So, after months and months of pestering, Ewan and Co. finally became convinced to make a professional CD (here are live recordings on SoundCloud - just listen to the first two, as the last two don't sound like them at all).  Actually, he said in typical Ewan style, make that five CDs.  With cutouts and actions, lyrics and chord progressions.  He wants not only the class, but the take-home music itself to be an experience, and encourage parents to be able to sing at home with their children. Love it.

We've started pre-selling CDs for £10 (that's $15 for the Yanks out there) -- the entire box set of five.  Bargain.  Paypal ewan underscore king at me dot com, or leave your email here and I'll be in touch.

We're up to 90 and need to either get up to 200 in sales before we can record or find someone to help with the design of the set.

Any takers?



What other good kids' music do you know of?  I've also discovered BYU's Acappella Group Inside Out has a great kids' CD.  Others?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
[New aspect of my post - sorry this first one will be long!] Recent small wonders:

* Esther's fat cheeks get kissed all of the time. In response, she has started grabbing your face (a new phenomenon) and kissing/slurping/sucking your face in return.  I like to believe she is actually trying to be affectionate.
* We call Esther our happy fat chick.  She not only laughs like one with a deep, sonorous belly chuckle, but three times daily, she will breastfeed, drink 8 ounces from the bottle, and be spoon fed a full baby meal.  She supplements this with two milk snacks a day.  I measure her girth by the depth of her crevices and how long it takes me to clean them.  I love it.
* Gideon and Esther will now have giggle fits when we leave them alone together - that is, when G isn't accidentally terrorising Esther.
* I sleep Esther in the stroller for her first nap so we are ready to go out for our morning adventure.  G will often come into the foyer, lift up the hat over Esther's eyes and shout "Aseep!" Not anymore!
* Lance and G will bring Esther to me together in the morning.
* When we have them in the bath together, Gideon will push past Esther to a corner of the bath in which he has no point in being just because he wants to say "Sorry sorry, so sorry" (pronounced "sowwy") as he brushes past.
* When G and Lance wrestle, and Lance has G in a compromising position, G will squeal and say, "I got you!"
* G will now zip his sleep tent closed when the prayers, singing, and cuddling are done.
* When G falls or hits his head/[body part], to distract him from the pain, I have been asking him where it hurts.  He will then point and I will ask whether he wants me to kiss it better. He will invariably say yes, I'll kiss him and ask whether it feels better, to which he'll respond "yes."  Done.  In the last few days, however, he has learned to truncate the process, running up to me or Lance with the offending body part raised or pointed to and say "kiss!"
* G will have Lance read several books to him a day, all multiple times.  A few, including the opposite, Doggies (involving lots of barking), and potty books, he can recite almost verbatim when left alone and he believes no one is listening.  
* G's version of counting to ten, which he does incessantly, sounds like this: 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 10!
* G can navigate Lance's iPhone from the home screen to Netflix or Youtube and find a learning show by himself.  What have we done!?

Delivering E in the morning


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