Thursday, December 18, 2014

SINGING A STORYBOOK - Wintertime / A Winter's Tale

Hello, everyone. Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Thank you for joining me. This post marks the first anniversary of writing for Pre-K and Kindergarten Sharing. 

During the year I’ve shared musical ideas, examined strategies for singing books, and explored iPad apps for (music) classroom use. In the summer, I launched a 3-part plea for listening locally,  focusing on singer songwriters from the Midwest and Ontario who have contributed substantively to the early childhood repertoire. My campaign will return in 2015, highlighting another region of the United States and Canada. Stay tuned!

I offer two celebratory gifts to light up December’s darkness. The first is a Solstice song by Stuart Stotts, a fellow CMN member and friend. It appears on his most recent blogpost, but don’t stop there. If you investigate a bit, you’ll unearth many sonic treasures!
This song commemorates the darkest days that go hand in hand with the season – at least in our hemisphere! The message of hope and light, however, is too transcendent to be consigned to a one-day observance. It also lends itself perfectly to the EC classroom use. Recommendation: Present this as a listening activity before teaching the song. That way, your kiddos can hear the arc of the story and experience Stott’s personal singing style and exquisite guitar work. After the song has been learned, sung, and moved to, ask students for their ideas. Even deep in winter…

Wintertime / Winter’s Tale
My second gift is to offer another way to sing a book. What’s that you say? We’ve already done that? Well, yes and no. I propose that there are times to bravely disregard the given text, and instead to substitute it with the lyrics and melody of an unrelated, but thematically connected song.

This is a different approach than November’s Piggybacking Melodies, where a book’s text is sung, or piggybacked, onto a familiar (children’s) song.

Drum roll, please. It’s time to beguine.

I can’t remember which came first – hearing and falling in love with Joanie Calem’s Wintertime from her CD, Dancing Through the Seasons, or stumbling across Robert Sabuda’s paper engineering masterpiece, Winter’s Tale, and becoming enraptured with its images. At some point, I put the two together, and magic happened.

The lyrics are a perfect complement to the book’s images. When I sing this storybook, the room becomes hushed as the listeners give themselves over to the perfect fusion of image, lyrics, and melody. If Sabuda had been familiar with Wintertime, he might have just thrown up his hands and declared, “My talent is manipulating paper into improbably gorgeous forms. I’ll leave the words to Joanie!”  Artists appreciate each other – or so I’ve been told.

The video I’ve provided is far more static than the reality of what happens when the book is presented in real time. Each page is slowly opened, revealing the marvelous artistry of the paper structures. Every page except for the final one has an additional side flap that, when opened, expands the story with another layer of pop-up animals.

Click on link to access video:

Full disclosure: I’ve taken a few liberties. The books sequence from page to page has been rearranged to accommodate the lyrics.  The chorus should be sung twice every time it occurs. For brevity’s sake, I limited the repetition in the Shadow Puppet. When I present it to my kiddos, I always sing it as written.

You can find out more about the song, access sheet music, and even hear Joanie signing the song with guitar accompaniment sponsored by the excellent Songs for Teaching site. Access to the mp3 and sheet music is free of charge.

Thank you for joining me! Have a glorious holiday and lovely new year.  I look forward to greeting and exploring 2015 with you!

©2002 Joanie Calem

Refrain: Wintertime is cold time, slow time, snow time,
Wintertime’s the soft time of the year.

1. Rabbits hop through the cold,
Digging up their summer gold.
Hop and jump all the day,
They aren’t bothered by the gray.
Cardinals chatter in the trees,
Finding winter’s nuts and seeds.
All their other bird friends
Flew down south ’til winter’s end.

2. Squirrels jump from branch to limb,
Climbing trees with shimmy shim.
Busy all year ’round,
Nice warm nests above the ground.
Possums, skunk and raccoon,
All are friends of winter’s moon.
Prowling ’round in mud and snow,
The cold just makes their thick coats grow.


3. Now bears are a diff’rent story.
When they hear the North Wind’s song,
They climb into their caves,
Sleep away the winter long.


I am continually inspired by The Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *


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