Songs ev­ery child should know

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net

It’s gen­er­ally agreed that know­ing songs is cru­cial in help­ing chil­dren suc­ceed in both mu­sic and read­ing. In­deed, Becky Rusen Wag­ner, an el­e­men­tary coun­sel­lor with Ohio’s Mariemont City schools, de­clares, “It is a vi­tal part of a child’s grow­ing and learn­ing process that they are aware of, can rec­og­nize and know these songs …

“Know­ing nurs­ery rhymes, silly songs and other kids’ songs help them make such a con­nec­tion be­tween mu­sic and read­ing. Singing helps chil­dren grow to be bet­ter learn­ers by con­nect­ing the two sides of the brain.”

Wag­ner then com­piles her own list of songs which, in her opin­ion, chil­dren should be taught.

“I try to do this in my class­room,” she adds, “but re­in­force­ment at hom e is more valu­able than you would imag­ine.”

Her list in­cludes such perenni al favourites as ABC’S, Cle­men­tine, Do-re-mi, Eency Weency Spi­der, Farmer in the Dell, Ge­orgie Porgie, Happy Birth­day, Hokey Pokey, Home on the Range, Humpty Dumpty, If You’re Happy and You Know It, I’m a Lit­tle Teapot, It’s a Small World, I’ve Been Work­ing on the Rail­road, Jack and Jill, Lit­tle Bo Peep, Lit­tle Jack Horner, Lit­tle Miss Muf­fet, London Bridge, Mary Had a Lit­tle Lamb, Old King Cole … All songs I knew as a child, then taught my own chil­dren.

But how things change with the pas­sage of time. I be­gan won­der­ing along these lines when some­one gave me the book, “Songs Ev­ery Child Should Know: A Se­lec­tion of the Best Songs of All Na­tions for Young Peo­ple,” edited by Dolores M. Ba­con and pub­lished in 1906. It’s in­ter­est­ing to com­pare and con­trast the songs rec­om­mended by to­day’s ed­u­ca­tor with those of over a cen­tury ago.

Ba­con ex­plains her pe­cu­liar choice of songs: “Many of the songs in­cluded here … are at least a re­flec­tion of a time or pe­riod in the mu­si­cal de­vel­op­ment of a na­tion; or they have been in­cluded here for that name­less qual­ity which re­sults in pop­u­lar­ity.”

Un­der the head­ing of “Songs of Sen­ti­ment,” she in­cludes: “Sleep, my love and peace at­tend thee, all thro’ the night. Guardian an­gels God will lend thee, all thro’ the night. Soft the drowsy hours are creep­ing, hill and vale in slum­ber steep­ing. Love alone his watch is keep­ing, all thro’ the night.” I’ve heard this one be­fore.

Un­der “Songs of War,” she of­fers: “O Firtree green! O Fir-tree green! How loyal is thy leafage! Not green alone in sum­mer­time, but green in win­ter’s snow and rime! O Fir-tree green! O Firtree green! How loyal is thy leafage!” Note the Ed­war­dian overuse of ex­cla­ma­tion points! This song is new to me.

Na­tional hymns garner her at­ten­tion, wi t h “The Batt le Prayer” be­ing one se­lec­tion: “Fa­ther! I bend to Thee! Life, it was Thy gift, Thou now canst shield it. From Thee I came and to Thee I yield it. In life or death, for­sake me not. Fa­ther, I bend to Thee.”

“Songs of Pa­tri­o­tism” in­clude “Who fears to meet a glo­ri­ous death, where shot and shell are fly­ing? And bet­ter to die on sun­lit heath than ’mid lament and sigh­ing. ’ Tis hard on lonely couch to writhe, and wait for Death’s slow creep­ing, but when he comes with sharpen’d scythe, we do not fear his reap­ing.” I would be hard-pressed to teach this song, with its di­rect em­pha­sis on war, to my chil­dren.

“Mil­i­tary Non­sense Songs” in­clude one with which I am fa­mil­iar, “Yan­kee Doodle.”

Other se­lec­tions fall into the “mis­cel­la­neous” cat­e­gory.

“Evening Song” be­gins: “Now reigns deep si­lence over hill and plain. The weary world is fast in slumbe r lain , whi le through the trees soft mur­murs the ev’ning

But how things change with the pas­sage of time. I be­gan won­der­ing along these lines when some­one gave me the book, “Songs Ev­ery Child Should Know: A Se­lec­tion of the Best Songs of All Na­tions for Young Peo­ple,” edited by Dolores M.

Ba­con and pub­lished in 1906. It’s in­ter­est­ing to com­pare and con­trast the songs rec­om­mended by to­day’s ed­u­ca­tor with those of over a

cen­tury ago.

breeze … To thee too may re­pose re­lief im­part … Now, now sleep thou, too, sleep thou too, my weary, weary heart.” There’s more, but it runs on for an­other two pages.

Here’s a so-called “Fish­er­men’s Song,” which might in­ter­est a New­found­lan­der or Labrado­rian: “There grows be­neath the ocean, Michelemma, eh! Michelemma! There grows be­neath the ocean, michelemma, eh! Michelemma! O-ho! A let­tuce!”

On sec­ond thought, per­haps not. I think I’ll stick with “Old Mac­don­ald Had a Farm, E-I-EI-O.”

There are Shake­speare songs, as well, but I’ll side­step those, as I did so poorly with the Bard of Avon when I was in school.

Photo by Terry Roberts/The Com­pass

IN CHAM­BERS — Mem­bers of the Clarke’s Beach town coun­cil dis­cuss an is­sue dur­ing a Feb. 13 meet­ing. They in­clude, from left, coun­cil­lors Roland An­drews and Win­ston Vokey, Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey, Mayor Betty Moore, town clerk Joan Wil­cox, and coun­cil­lors Garry Benell, El­don Snow and David Moore.

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