About Me

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Riverside County, California, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 24 times over and a great-grandmother of 13. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I am a Board Certified genealogist and more information on all this, as well as direct contact info, is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shameless Promotion: "Songs of Early Childhood"

The "Songs of Early Childhood" CD is finished. It has been one I looked forward to recording ever since I started putting together programs for genealogy societies that introduce people to the music of their ancestors. But putting together a full "kids program" has not been in the schedule until this year, with the plans to present music at Kids Camp at both the NGS Conference(in Salt Lake, on May 1) and at SCGS Jamboree (in Burbank, on June 11) - both free morning programs, but requiring pre-registration. Those events inspired me to get this done.

The recording went very smoothly, as did the mastering. The photo, on the other hand, probably caused my friend, Pam McComb-Podmostko, some sleepless nights. We took it back in July 2009 when I had a sufficient number of grandchildren present to make it come to pass. But the living room (yes, it was taken inside) in which it was taken had a lot of decorations on the walls and things on the tables. Pam, in her own imaginative way, did some "housecleaning" and, voila, we ended up in the garden. She also adjusted some of the children (about five photos were taken and no single one was perfect, so, again, Pam worked her magic and a child in one photo replaced his image in another). Oops, I'm telling all the secrets. Well, I just didn't want anyone to think that we got all of us looking halfway decent at the same time (hey, our family is no different from yours!). So here's the final product and, just so you don't think I grabbed kids from anywhere, I shall tell you who all these precious models are (note: they appear here with parental or guardian permission)

That's me with the guitar (duh). Next to me, on my right, is Mikayla Pitterle, daughter of Patty & John. From your left, across the front, we have Jacob Hinchey (son of DJ & Amy Jo), Selena Cheney (honorary step-granddaughter through our son-in-law's ex-wife Gay), Cole Hinchey (another son of DJ & Amy Jo), Miracle Pitterle (another daughter of Patty & John), Jamie Hinchey (step-granddaughter, daughter of Samantha, the step-sister of our oldest grandchildren), Lillabeth Mason (daughter of Joe & Kirbi, our oldest grandchild), Anya Pitterle (youngest daughter of Patty & John), and Zack (step-grandson, son of our new daughter-in-law, Jessica, and step-son of our youngest "boy," Max). Ha! And you thought I couldn't name them all. Missing: a whole bunch (but where would we put them?).

Children's songs fall into distinct categories, some of which are "songs that advise or teach lessons," "lullabies," "question/answer or response," "progressive" (i.e., songs that build with each verse including information from the previous ones), "play party songs" (where the participants are encouraged to do hand or body movements to replicate what is being mentioned in each verse), and "fun songs." I included at least one from each of these categories (note: some songs fall in more than one category); those that can be heard on this recording are, in order:

1) "Froggie Went a-Courtin'" - This was a song my father used to sing to me (accompanying himself on piano) from my earliest memories. This version is slightly different (he sang, "Frog, he would a-wooing go"). But I borrowed the verses & adapted the tune from what Dad sang to other versions (there are so many I would have to write an entire piece just on that . . . and I probably will, for GenWeekly, sometime in the near future). This is a "fun" song but it also is rumored to be one that "teaches" some history (that depends on the rendition, of course), using the method of analogy (way above the heads of the kids, but evident to the adults of the time period). I use guitar and banjo, with Uncle Butch on the spoons, to convey the message here.

2) "Aunt Rhody" - I remember this song from my early childhood, but don't know where I first heard it, but I suspect during music hour in school. The last verse - about the goose dying from standing on her head in the millpond - may be a more modern one as I also located a version that declared she died behind the shed and not from any bodily contortion. But the one I recall deals with her acrobatics and so I decided to use that one here. I am accompanied by my dear friend Susan Brundage on the flute. She adds a haunting quality to this odd song, and we alternate flute with Butch's saw playing (we have spared the listener of having to endure both of those instruments at once). This is categorized as a lullaby and is sung in an appropriate tempo for that purpose. I also use guitar and mandolin in it.

3) "Old Dan Tucker" - My grandfather, Lee A. Wilcox, had a number of 78 rpm records that he would play for me (I own them now and even have a machine that will play them, but most have been used so much that the sound quality is very poor). Anyway, this song, about the man who "died of a toothache in his heel" was always one of my favorites. I loved to sing along and it was so lively that it seemed to perk up my grandparents' home whenever it was on the record player (something that household needed a great deal of). This one is just for fun and I accompany myself on guitar and banjo while Butch plays the spoons.

4) "All the Pretty Little Horses" - When I was about 16 years old, I watched a PBS program called Rainbow Quest, hosted by Pete Seeger. He told the story of this song - of how the slave nanny would sing it to the little white child to get the babe to sleep while her own baby was left all alone in the slave shack "in the meadow," at the mercy of any wild creature that could gain access to the poorly constructed abode. When she sings about the "little lamby," it is of her own child she speaks. I had an opportunity to attend a workshop, conducted by Pete, not long after watching that show, and he asked the audience if anyone knew what the song was about. I volunteered (something I normally wouldn't have done, and was shocked when I realized I was the only person with a hand up!). I mentioned my source - our workshop leader - and everyone laughed. I think it was at that moment that I realized folklore was going to be my destiny and that some day I was going to be the one conducting a workshop. So this song connects to a lot of emotions and life-altering realizations for me. This lullaby is performed with guitar and saw.

5) "The Darby Ram" - Again, I'm not sure where I heard this the first time. It was probably on the Midnight Special on WFMT radio in Chicago. My old friends and neighbors, George & Gerry Armstrong, performed it on their first album for Folkways. I found it to be a rather horrifying children's song (speaking of blood and gore), but loved the cadence and the outlandishness of it. It's a fun song to sing, but I'm not sure everyone who hears it will be comfortable with the topic (most kids will love it, however!). This song, just for fun, was performed on guitar and mandolin, with Butch providing the spoons accompaniment.

6) "There's a Hole in the Bucket" - I remember George & Gerry Armstrong singing this song on one of their albums and I blogged about it a few months back. Butch & I did it, sort of hamming it up, at the Glendale Folk Heritage Festival in Arizona, back in March, and had fun doing it, so we decided to include it here. I thank Butch for being a good sport about it. It's a typicla question-response song, sung a cappella.

7) "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" - Another song my dad taught me. We had (and I have since purchased another copy of) a book called the Golden Songbook by Katharine Wessells (pictured below). It was the source of my earliest music instruction at my father's side. Many songs from that volume are associated with particular graphics and this is a prime example.
When I think of each of the days of the week and their accompanying chores (Monday was washday, etc.), I remember the photos in that book. I still do laundry (well, some of it) on Mondays and remember the song while I do so. I added "sand blocks" to this piece (I blogged about those not long ago) and think they add a nice touch (but I kept the blocks quiet on the Sunday verse when it says, "This is the way we go to church" - it just seemed irreverent to have sand blocks going to church). This play-party song that also serves to teach proper activities for each day of the week - more likely one that would be sung by girls, though there are boys doing household chores in the photos of the songbook that dates back to 1945 (good for them!) is performed on guitar.

8) "Little Brown Dog" - This song has been around for eons, but most people are familiar with the modernization of it, done by Noel Paul Stookey, and sung by Peter, Paul, & Mary as "Autumn to May." Their version is shorter by one verse, but the last line and the concept remain the same. It's a pure fantasy piece that let's imagination run wild. I'm using the original words (the ones our ancestors sang) with Noel's music and chorus (which was more natural for me to sing), using guitar with Butch on the saw.

9) "She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" - This song just won't die. And I'm fine with that. The original song is much shorter than what the kids sing these days. I remember being a cub scout den leader and leading the kids in this song which took the form of a progressive piece with play-party style movements (waving, chopping, driving horses, etc.). But this is presented here in the original format, leaving "her" (whoever "she" is) without pink pajamas, eating chicken & dumplings (which most kids today are clueless about), or sleeping with grandpa (which never seemed appropriate to me). Nevertheless, the tempo is lively and it's fun to sing along with it (I use banjo, guitar, mandolin, and limberjack, so there's lots of noise with her arrival).

10) "Pop! Goes the Weasel" - A song from England with English references. I have recorded the earliest version of verses that I could find. I blogged about this song a number of months ago. My husband and I still argue over this piece. I think I included it just to bug him (but he was a good sport - he mastered it with the same care as he did the others). I played both lead and back-up guitar for this play-party song that also speaks of certain behaviors that were less than stellar ("the Eagle" refers to a tavern of which someone is going in and out).

11) "Waste Not, Want Not" - A good adage for any generation. This song was taken from the collections of Mormon Pioneer Songs I have amassed over the last 30+ years. I have heard various renditions, all with the same chorus, that place the singer in a different location for his childhood (this version mentions the town of "Lincoln" - Nebraska - but others mention villages throughout Utah). I love the chorus and the line "let your watchword be dispatch . . ." Now, who knows what that means? Raise your hands higher! Ah, I thought so. Well, a "watchword" might be a personal motto or a life guide. "Dispatch" simply means "to accomplish" or "do," so I think that this could be reduced to "Get it done!" Of course, that lacks something in the poetry department and, after all, it is a song. But if the person listening (the child) doesn't understand it, I'm not sure the full impact can be felt. Oh well. This song of lessons for one's life is performed on guitar and autoharp.

12) "Rattlin' Bog" - I do not have a memory of this from my childhood, but, then, I'm from European descent and this is an Irish kids' song! I first heard it by the band Atlantic Crossing and fell in love with it, though I can rarely sing it all the way through without stumbling (I did a fairly decent job of it here, though I think it took a half dozen takes!). A progressive song that also increases in speed, which drove Butch nuts when he tried to add the spoons to my 12-string guitar (but he did it!).

13) "Hush Little Baby" - Another lullaby. My mother didn't sing me lullabies - that was my father's task (well, he taught them to me and I sang them to myself, to be honest). My mother's voice was not exactly in any key known to man, but she sure loved music. I learned this song as a child, but I think it was from a record, not from school or my father or grandparents. I seem to remember always knowing it. Each verse depends on the previous one and the rhymes make it easy to remember. I used guitar, mandolin, and Dobro on it.

14) "The Fox" - OK, probably my favorite kid's song. I love doing it on the banjo I inherited from my great-grandmother (see related blog). I first heard it on the Midnight Special on WFMT radio in Chicago, sung by Harry Belafonte. I've listened to a number of other artists perform it - Burl Ives and Odetta being the first ones to come to mind - but the Calypso sound of Belafonte is what makes the song come alive. I used that as my model for the recording and used guitar and banjo, with Butch on the spoons, in its presentation. The song is said to date back to at least the 1600s (as a poem) and is done just for fun. A good way to end the CD.

One of the enjoyable aspects of doing a CD, for me at least, is that I can do songs on more than one instrument (something that I have yet to master in a live performance). Sometimes I end up changing the primary instrument for future performance based on a recording experience. So my eighth CD is "in the can," so to speak, and if you are interested in ordering it, check my website. In the past, we have used the services of CD Baby for distribution, but this time we're handling it ourselves (to see if it works for us). To order by credit card, purchasers will have to resort to PayPal (a link is on the site). Otherwise, orders need to be by check or money order with the order form printed from the site. At this moment, I don't have any "clips" to listen to . . . those will probably go up next week. Or contact me if you want to hear samples or order MP3s. In this day of technology, anything is possible!.

1 comment:

  1. Love it Jean! You did a great job! Are we going to get to hear it in Utah??

    ReplyDelete