Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago. Thank you for joining me.

Drum roll, please for two announcements:
1. For those in the Chicago area, the Children’s Music Network (CMN) is hosting a Regional Gathering at the Evanston Library this Saturday, August 22, at 1:30pm. Sanna Longden, internationally renowned folk dance expert and teacher, is the keynote, and both Susan Salidor (a Chicago treasure) and I are doing a brief presentation. We’ll end with a song-swap – always a treasure trove of delightful ideas, songs, books and movement activities to learn then share with your kiddos. Please come!

2. The annual Children’s Music Network Conference, is being held in Zion, Illinois, from October 16-18. This year’s theme is Open the Circle. Musicians, teachers, songwriters, librarians, families, and friends from all over the U.S. and Canada will come together to raise their voices in song, share resources, celebrate the life of Pete Seeger, and attend engaging and relevant workshops on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lots of special events are going to be offered, including nature walks, yoga, a barn dance, and more. If you’re new to CMN, we’ll even match you up with a “buddy” for instant connection! Come for the music – and stay for the laugher and fellowship. Connect on Facebook for more information. 

Sing, Sing a Song….
The summer is hurtling toward its end, and teachers everywhere are either back teaching already (!) or preparing their classrooms for the start of the new academic year. This week, I am attending the Teacher Institute for an early childhood center I teach at – a true pleasure. The visionary leadership and Reggio approach have touched my heart in profound ways, and the association with this special community has greatly contributed to my joy of teaching.


Today’s session touched upon mindfulness, and how the simple practice of purposefully identifying something to look forward to the next day can positively improve wellbeing. We were encouraged to close our eyes and think of a future event that would give us pleasure. When I closed my eyes, I “saw" a group of children singing together. I felt my whole body soften. My thoughts skipped to a recent William James quote, tweeted by the Children’s Music Network social media goddess, Alina Celeste. To wit: “I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing. Truth encapsulated in 11 words.

Music, especially singing, contributes to the delicate alchemy required to create a positive and engaging classroom environment – but where to start? With a hello song, of course! In this and next month’s post I’ll be sharing favorite songs to start your year off  happily and musically. All are classroom tested, kiddo approved – and two examples use words piggybacked onto melodies you already know!

Mary Wore Her Red Dress
I initially found Mary Wore Her Red Dress in Ruth Crawford Seeger’s American Folk Songs for Children. If you do not own a copy, run, do not walk, to your preferred bookseller and get one! In print continuously since 1948, the scope, sequence and developmental whys and hows are as fresh pertinent as any current early childhood research. I feel so strongly about the book that I requested my music school purchase a copy for every one of our early childhood and general music teachers – and they did! Thank you, Merit!

The melody of Mary Wore Her Red Dress is simple, but not simplistic. The lyrics are open-ended, and can be adapted to a host of purposes beyond singing hello. The end use is only limited by the imagination of the singers. Here’s the inimitable Pete Seeger singing the song. Here’s another version, with an unexpected twist:

The original lyrics:
Mary wore her red dress,
Red dress, red dress.
Mary wore her red dress,
All day long.

To turn the lyrics into a hello song, rock gently side to side on the beat while singing:
Hello to the children,
Children, children.
Hello to the children
This fine day.

Details: The first several times I meet with the children, we sing hello to everything in the room, the sun or trees or rain outside, and whatever body parts we want to acknowledge. The repetition makes it easy to introduce new vocabulary.

Once the kiddos are comfortable with the song, I introduce other languages, e.g., Hola to the children, Bonjour to the children, Shalom to the children, etc. I recommend that you sing the new greeting two or three sessions before moving on to another language.

Bonus: Mary Wore Her Red Dress is a great vehicle for gathering children for Storytime (Time for a story, story, story…). It’s even been made into a book!

Time to Say Hello! / Down By the Bay

Down By the Bay is a fun and engaging echo song – with lots of rhyming opportunities. I highly recommend the whimsical “Raffi Songs to Read” version.
At some point, years into singing the song, it occurred to me that the melody was the perfect vehicle for using different languages to say hello. Making language substitutions is easy, and the echoing makes the song immediately successful. Eventually your kiddos may sing both parts – with or without you, as has happened in some of my kindergarten classes…and isn’t that what we want, for our kiddos to delight in and take ownership of what we share with them?

Time to say ni hao* (kiddos echo)
Time to say joon san,
and guten tag,
Jambo and hola,
Hi and hello,
It’s time to sing –
And so let’s go!

*Bonjour (French), Dia dhuit (Irish), Pree viet (Russian), Bom dia (Portugese), Shalom (Hebrew), Merhaba (Turkish), Jambo (Swahili), Namaste (Hindi), O’siyo (Cherokee).

Pat the beat while singing the song. When the children are comfortable, sing the song while clapping the rhythm. Ask the children to echo. I use the term “rhythm hands.”

Thank you for reading. Next month will bring more songs – with movement elements. Until then, keep on singing, because as Ella Fitgerald says,...

Call on Merit School of Music! Our onsite school is in the West Loop. We work in the schools throughout the area providing band, orchestra, percussion, choir, early childhood, and general music instruction with project based units including Recorder, Music and Storytelling and Songwriting. We do great work! YoYo Ma is a supporter!

Chicago Families
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer & Brigid Finucane. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with instrument exploration and family networking. The next session is August 24. Starting in September, Storytime is going to be offered once a month on the 2nd Monday.

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.

©2015 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 * gardengoddess1@comcast.net

Blog History
June 2015. Summer Songs


  1. Lovely as always Brigid :-) Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

  2. Thank you, first friend (in CMN). I like collecting hello songs as much as different versions of Sally Goes Round the Moon/Sun. One of these days we should compare notes. It's been awhile.


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