by Fred Koch
Timeless tunes entertain the whole family
Too often we are lead to believe that "new is better." Sometimes it is true, but often times, at least in music, the reason so much great music has survived the test of time is simply because it is timeless. Generation after generation discovers the innate beauty and deep emotional feeling found in these classic songs and music. In this month's column, we will take a walk down memory lane as we revisit songs from classic movies and shows interpreted by Harry Connick Jr., sample some of Sir James Galway's favorite classical pieces for flute and hear about the music being performed by The von Trapp Children.
SONGS I HEARD, by Harry Connick Jr., Sony Records, $18.98, all ages; www.columbiarecords.com. "It's a fun record, but it's definitely for adults. I take these songs seriously," says Connick about "Songs I Heard," an ambitious effort on works from classic movies and shows. So does that mean that children might not enjoy this, too? I happen to believe that it is important for children to hear high-quality music, no matter what the genre. So, if Connick feels that this "adult-only" music is not appropriate for children, I think he's missing the point, as well as ignoring a potential fan base. If you are a Harry Connick Jr. fan, you will certainly look forward to playing this for your children.
The album is at times endearing, as when the familiar melody of the "Mary Poppins" classic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is infused with the energy of a Mardi Gras street band, and at times poignant, as on the "Annie" ballad "Maybe." Yes, the orchestrations and big band arrangements are musically complex and sometimes go on a little long, but I'm convinced that given the opportunity, children can relate to music on levels that might astound us.
I guess what impresses me most is that Connick not only is the marquee name and singer of all the material on "Songs I Heard," but he also arranged and orchestrated the music and conducted the musicians. The musical arrangements vary from lush and beautiful to quick and musically challenging, even for the most seasoned big band musicians. You will hear very tasty arrangements of "The Lonely Goathead," "Do-Re-Mi" and "Edelweiss" (The Sound of Music), "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead," "Merry Old Land of Oz," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Wizard of Oz) and "Jitterbug" (originally from Wizard of Oz, but omitted from the movie). Other highlights include a nice medley of "Pure Imagination" and "Candy Man," the upbeat "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile" and one of my all-time favorite Disney songs, "Stay Awake" (Mary Poppins).
So if you enjoy the musical style of Harry Connick Jr., or are a big-band enthusiast or a movie music fan, you are sure to enjoy "Songs I Heard" and your children may pick up on your enthusiasm, too.
MUSIC FOR MY LITTLE FRIENDS, by James Galway, Sony Records, $17.98, ages 6-up; www.rcaredseal-rcavictor.com. Sir James Galway, one of the world's finest musicians, certainly understands the powerful effect that music has on children. Galway states, "Throughout my career, I have met, taught and played with thousands of children. Nothing gives me greater joy than being able to touch someone through music." On "Music For My Little Friends," Galway presents some of the most popular, as well as educational, works in the flute repertoire. His hope is that the music will be an inspiration to the young, budding flutist. Sure, the excerpts presented on this recording might serve as a concise collection of beautiful flute music available to the aspiring musician, but it also works as a wonderful introduction to classical music for the ears of young listeners and adults.
Galway is in superb form as he glides effortlessly from Mozart's "Rondo alla Turca" and Saint-Saéns' "The Swan" (The Carnival of the Animals) to Gabriel Fauré's "Pavanne" and "Sicilienne" to Maurice Ravel's "Pièce en forme de habeñera" and even the traditional "Danny Boy."
This 2002 Parents' Choice Recommended CD travels the emotional spectrum from sweet and carefree to playful and pensive. Galway, accompanied by the London Mozart Players and pianist Phillip Moll, has masterfully selected a set of flute-friendly pieces that is sure to please lovers of classical music.
THE VON TRAPP CHILDREN, VOL. 1, by The von Trapp Children, Rattlesby Records, $16, ages 6-up; www.vontrappchildren.com. If the name sounds familiar, you are right. These von Trapp children are the great-grandchildren of Captain von Trapp, father of the famous singing family that inspired the film "The Sound of Music." Now, the von Trapp family has returned to the spotlight with the release of their first CD. Singing an extensive repertoire of music including folk, classical and classic pieces from "The Sound of Music," the children, who range in age from 7 to 14, are becoming known in their own right for their effervescent voices and lovely harmonies. They have been performing live for the last five years, having made numerous television appearances and opening for such acts as George Winston and Peter, Paul and Mary.
The children's four-part harmony is showcased in 17 songs on the album, ranging from classical and traditional folk and sacred to contemporary pop tunes. Titles include "Edelweiss," "Amazing Grace," "Scarborough Fair," "Homeward Bound," "Blue Cheese" (an old camp favorite) and various traditional Austrian songs. Other hightlights include "Wayfaring Stranger," "Dona Nobis," "Children's Prayer" (from Hansel & Gretel), "All The Pretty Little Horses" and, probably my favorite, "Father's Eyes." The family especially likes to perform at benefits, such as the one earlier this year at Ground Zero that aided firefighter and police families. That led to a rebooking at a New York City firefighters picnic on Labor Day. By helping to raise money for others, the children are following in the footsteps of the original family, who collected blankets and other relief supplies during their concerts after the war and sent the items to refugees in Europe. The children's parents, Annie and Stefan, realize that the legacy is important and that their children are connected to something very special. "They've always loved singing, and we feel God has given them this special gift," Stefan said. "If we can give this gift to people and represent the family, we'll let them sing."
Here's hoping they find success, continue to sing and start to work on Volume 2.
.Fred Koch is an award-winning music educator, children's musician and nationally recognized workshop clinician. His Web site, www.BestChildrensMusic.com, includes additional information on his CDs as well as general information about selecting quality children's music and past Chicago Parent reviews. Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son. Please e-mail notes and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.