Variety is the spice of these CDs

You may have noticed from past review columns that I find compilation CDs not only to be a good value, but also a wonderful way to check out a variety of musical artists and styles. Though this first CD, “World Party,” is not a compilation in the strictest sense of the word, it is a collection of a variety of songs from around the world. So if you’re like me and want to introduce your children to a diverse selection of music, here are some great places to start.

WORLD PARTY, by Various Artists, Music For Little People, $13.98, www.mflp.com; ages 3-10.

I know that a CD has connected with my 7-year-old son when he plays it over and over again. This was definitely the case with “World Party.” My wife and I finally had to ask him to choose something else to play after the CD had gone through its fourth playing in repeat mode. This went on for about three days straight. I am always interested in trying to figure out what the attraction is and why a certain recording resonates so well with him. In the case of “World Party,” I’m certain it is the variety of infectious rhythms that are at the heart of many of these songs. It is not the lyrics, because they are not in English. It may also be the very singable melodies, both found in the singing and the instrumentation, because they are so catchy. As the CD is playing, my son and I both can be heard singing along with the singers (when we’re able to mimic the lyrics) and the melodies found in the great instrumentation.

The 15-song CD starts with the rumba influenced flamenco from Spain “Hoy Es Tu Cumpleanos! (Today Is Your Birthday).” This might be my favorite track on the CD simply because of the joyous feeling it generates. The entire CD is full of outstanding songs from a variety of countries. All are treated with a musical sensitivity that stays true to the authentic style and nature of these ethnic musical styles.

World Party features traditional songs from Morocco (“Madrasti Hiloua/My Sweet School”), Central Asia (“Arkadasim/The Friends,” sung in Turkish), Venezuela (“Pajarillo Verde/Little Green Bird”), Italy (“Tanti Auguri/ Congratulations,” a traditional tarantella dance) and “Hija Mia, Mi Querida (My Dearest Daughter),” a traditional Sefardic song from Spain, just to name a few.

Though our family really enjoys the entire CD, a few other standouts include “Epo I Tai Tai E (I’ll Be Happy),” a traditional Maori song from New Zealand, and “Tue Tue” from Ghana. Both are great get-up-and-dance songs.

You will also enjoy some South Americangems including a bossa nova (“Canta, Canta Hermanito”) and a samba (“Sambahia”) from Brazil and a merengue about a famous port city in Chile (“Valparaiso”). You also will enjoy the salsa and calypso rhythms of “Vamos Al Caribe (Let’s Go to the Caribbean),” a lyrically sparse but very soothing version of “Awimbowe (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” and the final song “Have Fun! Viel Spass! Pasalo Bien!,” a world music celebration in many languages. Viva la musica!

LISTEN, LEARN AND GROW: PLAYTIME, by Various Artists, Naxos Records, $16.98, www.naxos.com; all ages.

I have purposefully resisted writing about CD projects that seem to blatantly attach themselves to the coattails of the Mozart Effect phenomenon. Though I wholeheartedly support the trend to promote and increase music education, I have spoken out against the marketing strategy of some of these companies. I believe their aim is to make us parents feel guilty if we don’t immerse our child with just the right classical music at just the right time. The implication is that if we miss the window of opportunity, we won’t be able to replace its value and worth at a later date. And you don’t want your child to be deprived of the prospect of increased intelligence, do you?

So I am recommending this CD box set not because your child’s brainpower will increase. I simply think this is a wonderful, comprehensive compilation of symphonic orchestral classics mined from the vast catalogue of classical music recordings on the Naxos label. And because it is a three-CD set, with more than 60 minutes of music per CD, it really is a great value for $16.98.

The first CD is subtitled “Arts& Crafts” and its CD booklet includes complete instructions for five projects you and your children can do together. The activities are excerpts from the award-winning books from the Williamson’s Little Hands series. But, it is the 14 musical selections starting with Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” (from Solomon) and finishing up with Haydn’s “Allegro Finale” (from Symphony No. 104 “London”) that make this CD so outstanding. You will enjoy the mellow and calming “Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens and Bach’s “Sheep May Softly Graze.” Other selections include Vivaldi’s “Allegro” from “Autumn” (The Four Seasons), Dvorak’s “Humoresque” and Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” just to name a few.

“Imagination” is the theme of the second CD and again the booklet contains seven more hands-on project ideas. As the liner notes exclaim, the music was “chosen specifically to stimulate the imagination with melodies that are as free and boundless as the world of make-believe.” Now that sounds like good public relations writing to me, but again, I’m enchanted primarily by the music. Some of my all-time favorite pieces for children are all together on this collection including Offenbach’s “Can-Can,” Rossini’s “Overture” from William Tell, Strauss II’s “Pizzicato Polka,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” and Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.” Other classics in this 17-track CD include Mozart’s “Allegro” from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and “Pomp and Circumstance” by Elgar.

The format holds true for the third CD with projects in the booklet and more than an hour’s worth of familiar and important classical music pieces. “Fun and Games” is the focus this time and this is the most up-tempo of the three CDs in this box set. First we hear Khachaturin’s “Sabre Dance” (which I remember first hearing as a child-OK, it was on the Ed Sullivan Show and was the background music for the amazing plate spinning guy, but it did make a lasting impression), followed by “March of the Toreadors” from the Carmen Suite by Bizet. The music of Debussy (“Golliwog’s Cake Walk”), Tchaikovsky (“Sleeping Beauty Waltz”), Rachmaninov (“Italian Polka”), Brahams (“Hungarian Dance No. 5”) and Delibes (“Pizzicato”) are all featured in this collection that is chock full of great musical nuggets.

In the liner notes we are reminded that “the songs we experience as children build the foundation for a lifelong enjoyment of music.” As a music educator and parent, I would certainly agree. Because we know that music has a tremendous positive impact on children, we should all be doing whatever we can to promote the vital role music education has in the lives of our young children. Pass the word!

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