FolkWorld Issue 41 03/2010; Children Music Reviews by Michael Moll (with the help of Yasmine, 1.5 year)

Folk for Children
Counting, and Alternatives to Counting Sheep

This time we start with a "Geheimtip" CD, and then get all tired with some lullabies - journeying to Germany, Canada, Irland and Spain with plenty more great music for the little ones...


This children's song CD in English language is definitely a real "Geheimtip" (well kept secret) for the English speaking world, as it has not been published for the international market, but only for Germany. This is because Robert Metcalf is a British ex-pat, having lived for many years in Germany. Robert is very well known amongst German children, not least as a "TV star", performing regularly in a popular pre-school programme, "Die Sendung mit dem Elefanten" - often with the same song first in English and then in German.

Robert Metcalf

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"Music Counts" features 12 songs in English language about numbers - one song for each number from 1 to 12, with plenty of references to things that usually come in that number. Robert has previously published an award winning CD with book with German childrens songs, called "Zahlen bitte" - this album takes the same concept, and in fact the same melodies and the same themes for each song, into the English language. And the result is as outstanding as "Zahlen bitte" was, with the songs being cleverly adapted, rather than translated, into English language.

The number songs are all imaginative with a gentle sense of humour, with clever lyrics which will appeal to children (and adults alike!) - be it the "magical three", "five fingers", or "6 at last" about playing Ludo. In "Nine Lives", Robert tells us about his nine lives he has lived so far - including as a snail "leaving a slimy trail", a crocodile "with a scary sort of smile" or a monkey "life was really very funky". The number eleven is about football, and the ten about a birthday party where everything comes in 10. The music is of highest quality, and makes extremely pleasant listening also for parents - Robert's band features great German musicians on, amongst others, violin, percussion, piano, accordion, double bass, guitars, sax, flutes, clarinet.

The booklet features all lyrics in English. You will find that the CD is made for the German market, as the subtitle "Zahlenlieder zum Englisch Lernen" and the German sleeve notes indicate. But this should be no reason whatsoever for anybody English to purchase this wonderful album of English songs. And why not take the opposite approach - get first the English CD "Music Counts", and then, when your children start learning (or being interested in) foreign languages, get the German version "Zahlen bitte".

... and sleeping!

Rick Scott, Snooze Music

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Robert does not count sheep on his CD (even though he has one lullaby about 12 tiny owls); so it should be a good idea to look at alternatives to counting sheep by listening to a few CDs with children's lullabies. Obviously the best lullaby is the one which is sung by the parent to the child, but there should be always the time and place to listen to some good quality CDs with lullabies.

The CD "Snooze Music" does exactly what it says on the tin (well cardboard) - it will make you all snoozy. When we first tried it out one evening, both mummy and daddy were getting all snoozy and yawning - although our little daughter was getting livelier and livelier, which proves that lullabies may not always work for all involved! The album has been developed by Canadian childrens songwriter and dulcimer player Rick Scott. The music is gentle and the tunes are predictable - as you would expect of music to send you to sleep. The lyrics of the songs (there are 5 songs and 6 instrumentals on the album) are appropriate to send children into their dream worlds - there are butterflies, instruments going to sleep after the last lullabies or ships sailing home. Rick is joined on the album by a number of musicians, on instruments such as violin, recorders, guitar and cello, and trombone and tuba.

Olatz Zugasti, Bulun bulunka

Rick came up with the concept of the album when his son was in a coma, and was gradually coming back to life. Rick started humming the simplest of tunes into his son's ear, trying to be his safe harbour. Now he shares it with any parent and child, to be comforted by this gentle music. And it seems popular also in the "professional" parenting world - "Snooze Music" has won several parenting awards.

While we are talking lullabies, I should refer to a couple of CDs that Yasmine loved already shortly after she was born, and which always calmed her down. Basque singer Olatz Zugasti recorded 10 years ago a stunningly beautiful CD of Basque lullabies. "Bulun bulunka" features traditional Basque lullabies which generations of Basque children will have fallen asleep to. This is an album full of warmth, carrying love, shelter, natural beauty. Olatz's warm and soft voice is blended with her harp playing, with subtle additions of clarinet, flute, mandolin and accordion. This is a brilliant album of lullabies - it doesn't matter if you understand the language or not, Olatz's intimate singing will spellbound children and parents alike.

There are of course singers which do not sing lullabies as such, but may have the same effect on little ones - and Niamh Parsons is certainly one of the singers that worked magic with our daugther when she was tiny. One of the most listened album in Yasmine's early days was Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne's CD "Live at Fylde". This live album captures even more the intimacy and beauty of Niamh's singing than her studio albums. (Full review in issue 34.)

And when your little ones are still not asleep after listening to all these three CDs then I cannot help you I am afraid!


Children (FW#40)
German Titles

Photo Credits: (1) Robert Metcalf, (2) Rick Scott "Snooze Music" (from website); (3) Olatz Zugasti "Bulun bulunka" (unknown).

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