Roderick Williams, baritone, Elizabeth Atherton, soprano, and Iain Burnside, piano, have turned children's songs into art songs. Their CD Classic Children's Songs is a collection of thirty-five songs on the Just Accord Music label. The songs range from The Owl and the Pussycat (Lear/Hely-Hutchinson) to The Engineer (Milne/Fraser-Simson). While the wide range of songs will especially appeal to parents of larger families, caution should be used, as with any product aimed at children.
Many of the songs are targeted to the young child, around ages 3-8, such as The Duck and the Kangaroo, which is a conversation between the two animals, with the piano music hopping all over the keyboard
[listen -- track 13, 0:28-1:00].
In The Owl and the Pussycat, Roderick Williams conveys the combination of comical simplicity with the serious melodic complexity that makes this child's song so special
[listen -- track 1, 0:05-0:42].
Many are derived from children's literature, such as Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (How Doth the Little Crocodile) and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Duck's Ditty). Others were adapted from children's verses.
Some songs in the collection may not be suitable for very young children, however. Namárië, for example, is a song in Elvish, an invented language from J R R Tolkien's Fellowship of the Rings, and it may not reach younger children, although it could appeal to the older children who read J R R Tolkien. In addition, while most of the songs are delightful, some are outright gloomy or scary and may not be very uplifting to the young. Tit For Tat, for example
[listen -- track 28, 0:25-0:44],
or Mr Majelka's Song, which even incorporates the melody of Chopin's funeral march
[listen -- track 29, 3:27-4:23]
as the song hails the death of magic.
Henry King is a darkly comic song about a child who is dying because he swallowed bits of string. Sobbing can be heard in the background, as baritone Williams sings the dirge that was part of Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children.
Several works have a beauty that is accessible to most listeners, including parents: Singing, for example (Robert Lewis Stevenson/Blake), is a lyrical melody sung by Atherton with a filigree-like piano accompaniment
[listen -- track 4, 0:09-0:31].
Dream-song evokes a dream-like bedtime atmosphere with a lullaby-like rocking and a yearning wistful melody. Bilbo's Last Song from J R R Tolkien's literature
[listen -- track 24, 1:47-2:34]
will move many music lovers, although it is more sophisticated than most children's songs.
I would recommend the CD to parents, but only on the condition that they are willing to select the best appropriate songs for their child, rather than give the entire collection indiscriminately to their very young. The best of this meticulously performed collection stirs the imagination to no end.
Copyright © 10 December 2006
Anna L Franco, New York City, USA
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Classic Children's Songs
JUSCD003 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 75'41" 2006 Just Accord Music
Roderick Williams, baritone; Elizabeth Atherton, soprano; Iain Burnside, piano
Victor Hely-Hutchinson (1901-47), words Edward Lear: The Owl and the Pussy-cat; Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003), words Robert Louis Stevenson: My Bed is a Boat; Liza Lehmann (1862-1918), words Hilaire Belloc: Henry King; Howard Blake (born 1938), words Robert Louis Stevenson: Singing; Harold Fraser-Simson (1872-1944), words A A Milne: Vespers ('Christopher Robin is saying his prayers'); Andrew Carter (born 1939), words Eleanor Farjeon: Pancake Tuesday; Richard Rodney-Bennett (born 1936), words Walter de la Mare: Dream-song; trad arr Celius Dougherty (1902-86): The Lady Who Loved A Pig; Herbert Howells (1892-1983), words Walter de la Mare: Full Moon; Mervyn Dale (1922-85), words Spike Milligan: Malice at Buckingham Palace; Harold Fraser-Simson, words A A Milne: Buckingham Palace; Mervyn Dale, words Spike Milligan: Hello Jolly Guardsman; Victor Hely-Hutchinson, words Edward Lear: The Duck and the Kangaroo; Richard Rodney Bennett, words Marjory Fleming: Sweet Isabell; Edward German (1862-1936), words Rudyard Kipling: Merrow Down; Of All the Tribe of Tegumai; Betty Roe (born 1930), words Rudyard Kipling: My Boy Jack; Betty Roe, words James Reeves: Mr Kartoffel; Harold Fraser-Simson, words A A Milne: The Engineer; Mervyn Dale, words Spike Milligan: Granny; Lennox Berkeley (1903-89), words Walter de la Mare: Poor Henry; Christopher Le Fleming (1908-85), words Rudyard Kipling: A Smuggler's Song; Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003), words R L Stevenson: The Lamplighter; Donald Swann (1923-1994), words J R R Tolkien: Bilbo's Last Song; Ronald Stevenson (born 1928), words R L Stevenson: The Swing; Charles Ives (1874-1954), words Lyman Brewster: Slow March; Barbara Reynolds (1892-1977), words Kenneth Grahame: Ducks' Ditty; Benjamin Britten (1913-76), words Walter de la Mare: Tit For Tat; Chris de Souza (born 1943), words Humphrey Carpenter: Mr Majeika's Song; Cecil Armstrong-Gibbs (1889-1960), words Walter de la Mare: Five Eyes; Donald Swann, words J R R Tolkien: Namárië; Harold Fraser-Simson, words Lewis Carroll: How Doth the Little Crocodile; Lord Berners (1883-1950), words John Masefield: Theodore or The Pirate King; Ronald Stevenson, words R L Stevenson: When the Golden Day is Done; Arthur Somervell (1863-1937), words Eugene Field: Wynken, Blynken and Nod
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