Sunday, June 01, 2003
Some music is meant to put children to sleep By Fred KochChicago Parent Editor Susy Schultz and I were talking recently about children's music and the topic of lullaby recordings came up. We talked about how some parents feel the intimacy of singing for their children at bedtime (even if it is "American Pie," as Susy recalls) is at the heart and soul of the lullaby. After all, parents have been doing it for generations. So why, then, do you need a recording? Well, maybe some of us are so uncomfortable with singing that we can't even sing to our children. Or, maybe it is because we can't remember, or don't know, any appropriate songs. The fact is (and this is the important stuff) children aren't connecting with the content of your song, but are connecting with the emotion of the moment. So, armed with this information there should be no excuse not to get up a little courage and sing for your infant or toddler. Right? Not quite that simple, or easy. Nonetheless, as I told Susy, I am still amazed at the number of recordings that are being produced and marketed directly to the bedtime needs of parents. I guess that proves parents are looking for music that will help their young children make the transition between their active day and bedtime. I know some folks would think that because I am a musician all I do is sing to my son--especially at bedtime. But as I look back over my son's infant and toddler years, to be honest, I very seldom sang to him, preferring to fill his ears with some exquisite quiet-time recordings. He is now 7 and we still play music at bedtime. For most of his years, he's had an active voice in what CD is chosen for that evening. Here are some recordings I like and ones you may find enjoyable for those quiet times and bedtimes. See if you see a "dreamland" theme going on here. ... ON MY WAY TO DREAMLAND, by Kathy Reid-Naiman, Merriweather Records, $16, ages 7 and under; www.merriweather.ca. This wonderful collection of lullabies has been our son's favorite bedtime CD for the past few months. I am a big fan of Reid-Naiman's recordings--always exceptionally produced by Ken Whiteley, Raffi's first producer. Her voice is warm and inviting and Whiteley's arrangements and acoustic instrument choices (guitar, steel drums, harp, djembe, cello and mandolin, just to name a few) is perfectly suited to each song. There are 19 lullabies in this collection. Some are well known, such as "Lavender's Blue," "Catch a Falling Star" and "Turn Around" but many, though unfamiliar at first, will quickly become favorites. This is part of Reid-Naiman's strength--she is a collector of folk songs and always surprises me with the gems she chooses to share. A very sweet and tender recording. DREAMLAND, by Joanie Bartels, Purple Frog Records, $15, ages 2-7; www.joaniebartels.com. This collection of gentle, inspirational, story-like songs feature lush orchestral arrangements and spotlight Joanie's expressive vocal qualities. It opens with the magical "Never Never Land," which sets the stage for this dreamy and imagination-filled journey. Bartels finds the perfect mix of familiar tunes ("What A Wonderful World" and "Turn Around"), lesser-known songs ("Nature Boy" and "The Moon Is Made of Gold") and original compositions ("The Land of Make Believe" and "Tomorrow's a Dream World Away"). And I have to say that her original songs are well written and beautifully arranged and performed. I think her songs stand out among this fine selection of dreamland songs. DREAMLAND, by Various Artists, Putumayo Kids, $15.98, all ages; www.putumayo.com. Subtitled "World Lullabies & Soothing Sounds," this compilation is the latest from Putumayo, one of the leading World Music record labels. As with all of their compilations, Dreamland features a rich and diverse collection of outstanding artists from Africa, Europe, North and South America and Asia. As with all of their children's music releases, you can expect an eclectic mix of songs and world music styles. Most of these artists are not household names in this country but represent the best of their homelands. Two of my favorite pieces include "Naima" performed by African artist by Angleique Kidjo with a little help from Carlos Santana and Teresa Doyle's (Canada) beautiful song, "A Lullaby" from her lovely CD, "Cradle On The Waves: Lullabies and Slow Aires" (which I reviewed in August 2002). As the promotional materials mention, "The songs on Dreamland were intended to help children fall asleep, but adults will enjoy these relaxing and soothing melodies as well." I can attest to that--this CD has not made it to our son's room yet. We are still enjoying it on the home stereo. ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE HORSES, by Miranda Russell, Randa Records, $15.95, all ages; www.mirandarussell.com. This album is another eclectic mix of traditional lullabies, some lesser-known lullabies from around the world, and a handful of popular songs. Russell's voice is soothing and the instrumental arrangements are very tasty. You will hear classics such as the title song and other favorites including "Hush Little Baby" and "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," as well as some unexpected pleasures such as "Songbird" (popularized by Christie McVie/Fleetwood Mac) and the lovely "Armenian Lullaby." But what I find to be perfectly well placed on this recording are the jazz standards "I've Got A Crush On You" and "Summertime." They have that late night, intimate jazz feel to them that really works for me. As with many recording artists, Russell was inspired to create this recording because she's a mom and wanted to create something special for her children. We're lucky enough to be able to listen in. Fred Koch is an award-winning music educator, children’s musician and nationally recognized workshop clinician. His Web site, www.BestChildrens Music.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.