Video Premiere – “Glue” performed by Frances England

On Friday, November 6, Frances England will debut her EP, Honey, a new collection of songs that includes four reimagined tunes and two new ones. Today, I am happy to share the premiere of “Glue,” the first single off this new album. Featuring real footage of a wide range of configurations of families and friends (of the two and four-legged variety), this is a beautiful tribute to the love, and happiness we find when spending time with one another.  The images in the video for “Glue” perfectly pair with England’s soothing voice and gentle lyrics. “Glue” will make listeners smile, laugh, and maybe even shed a tear or two, but ultimately come away feeling uplifted and a joyful. 

 

Song Spotlight – “¡Fiesta, Fiesta!” performed by Sonia De Los Santos

What better way to close out this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month than with a new release from Sonia De Los Santos? Originally written for Sonia’s live show Fiesta con Sonia De Los Santos, which was commissioned by the New Victory Theater in New York City, today Sonia is sharing “¡Fiesta, Fiesta!” with the world. This gorgeous Spanish-language song tells Sonia’s own story of being an immigrant from Monterrey, Mexico who came to New York City, joined a community of talented artists, and now travels the world gathering inspiration and entertaining folks of all ages.  As always, Sonia’s lovely voice shines on this Cumbia and an extra bit of joy is added with the backing vocals of a children’s chorus. The upbeat melody makes it impossible for listeners to resist the call of the music. “¡Fiesta, Fiesta!” is a true delight!! Listen to “¡Fiesta, Fiesta!” below.

In Tempo with…Ginalina

I became aware of Ginalina’s music in 2016 when I featured her album Forest Friends Nature Club as one of the first reviews to appear on Kids Rhythm and Rock. My appreciation for her music has continued to grow over the years and includes the early 2019 release of the children’s album It Takes a Village and this year’s Small but Mighty. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Ginalina is a two-time Juno-nominated singer-songwriter who, with the release of her first picture book, can now add author to her name.

Based on the track “Save the Mighty River” from Small but Mighty, Ginalina’s debut picture book The Mighty River, is a beautiful read aloud. The book opens with a full-page illustration of over two dozen animals that can be found around the river areas in the Pacific Northwest. As the rhyming story unfolds, each animal is mentioned, with the book ending with the same full-page illustration. There are several layers to each two-page spread. The first is an I spy element where the rhyming text mentions 2-3 animals or aspects of nature which are part of the detailed illustration on the facing page. The second layer is skillfully incorporated in the top corners of each illustration and depicts the moon and its phases as seen in the Northern Hemisphere. The next layer features humans doing all kinds of outdoor activities that children can relate to including swimming, canoeing, collecting rocks along the shore, and having evening bonfires. The final layer is one that I think families will identify with more with this year than in previous years. It is the depiction of children enjoying nature independently, as well as with different generations of their family. The illustrations by Kelley Wills are reminiscent of woodcuts which by employing a simple but stunning color palette, perfectly capture not just the tone of the text, but the subtle beauty and wonder that nature has to offer. 

Children will want to read The Mighty River again and again while discovering new animals and searching for them within the illustrations. The Mighty River would work well as a family read aloud, in storytime or as an introduction to lessons for younger children on ecology or woodland habitats. The MIghty River is currently available through www.beautifulworldbooks.com.

 

Ginalina was kind enough to take a few moments during this busy time to answer a few questions about her newest venture.

Nature plays a big role in your music and is the focus of The Mighty River. Where does your love of the outdoors come from?

Growing up in Toronto, sandwiched between Kensington Market and the Annex, my family didn’t own (or need) a car and this gave me plenty of time to experience the slow pleasures that come with walking everywhere.   I heard birds chirping, saw leaves turning, felt seasons changing, smelled roses in the gardens, and noticed all sorts of little wonders – like bees in gardens and clouds in the sky.  I think my love for the outdoors happened naturally, by spending time with it.  Now that I live in Vancouver, I’m all the closer to trees, mountains, and rivers, and I always feel happier and calmer near them.

“Save the Mighty River,” the song that inspired The Mighty River appears on Small But Mighty, your fifth album for families. What was it about this song that made you want to reimagine it as a picture book?

The song is a powerful narrative from the River’s perspective, telling all about the wonderful things that the River does for the animals and plants and humans.  It’s also a call to action prompting humans to imagine how we can partner together to protect her from harm.  It’s absolutely appropriate for children – full of delightful imagery and filled with beautiful sounds.  I wanted to capture that beauty and the biodiversity of the River in a way that children could engage more deeply in.  I see the book as complementary to the song and I envisioned it to be a sort of keepsake that young readers can return to again and again, just as they would with nature, finding something special and new in it every time.  

You and illustrator Kelley Wills collaborated on this project. How did this partnership come about?

The story of how we got connected to each other is really neat.   What started off as an Instagram search landed me on a picture of a t-shirt design for a folk duo.  That design ended up being the catalyst for a partnership and collaboration.  I resonated with Kelley’s work right away and reached out to ask her to consider creating my upcoming album cover.  We built a strong art synergy and I appreciated how well we communicated and how we both shared interests in music, nature, and interesting storylines.   When I had the vision for creating The Mighty River, I could only see it with Kelley’s illustration style, and I’m glad she was excited, like me, to do this project together.  

Take us through the process of transforming “Save the Mighty River” into book form.

My kids love stories and when they were young, we poured through stacks and stacks of wonderful picture books.  From this, I began to admire flowing text, detailed illustrations, interesting borders, and themes that celebrated strong relationships.   In making the song into a book, those elements were very important to me, as well as making the River the star.  

The book process started with Kelley and I discussing the vision, colour scheme, and overall vibe.  She suggested a reduced colour palette which I adored.  Then we researched the river ecology of the West Coast and I pulled my family pictures to inspire the characters.  Kelley sketched all the illustrations by hand, inked them in on an iPad, and then brought them into a program for vectorizing.  I gathered ideas from children on how to protect the river and Kelley prepared them in the layout, along with some open-ended pages for reflection and drawing.   I had so much fun recreating the phases of the moon in the page borders and Kelley did a beautiful job on the cover.  Regarding the text, I adapted it from the song and made it lyrical and suitable for read-alouds.  I am so thankful for the help of my kids and Linda and Grayson Smith to edit the book.  This project took approximately ten months to complete, from concept to publication.  It was a very meticulous process and I enjoyed every step.

If you could share one message with children and their caregivers, what would it be?

At the centre of The Mighty River is a sense of community and interdependence – humans with humans, humans with nature, nature with animals, animals with rivers, rivers with humans, etc..  I hope children and readers notice that message and see themselves as part of the environment’s past, present and future narrative.  I want readers to get excited about river life and feel inspired to enjoy, explore and care for it together.

What’s next for Ginalina?

I’m proud of my team and this book.  I’m so thankful for my illustrator, the editors, and the support of Peppermint Toast Publishing. We are planning a virtual book launch and I’m looking forward to connecting with children and others over their thoughts on The Mighty River.  There are a fair number of supplementary materials (music video, sheet music, activity pages, stickers) which should make the entire experience for readers more enriching.   The journey of becoming an author has been so rewarding and it definitely feels like a natural extension of my music career.  In fact, with the encouragement from our publisher, Kelley and I are already working on our second book and I hope to share more about that when we’re farther along.

 

Please enjoy the video for Ginalina’s song, “Save The Mighty River” which features animated versions of some of the illustrations from The Mighty River.

 

Bounce performed by Suzanne Jamieson

I’ll admit, I’m still catching up on all the fantastic albums I missed over the past few months. Today, I was looking for something to brighten my mood. After taking one look at the cover for Bounce I thought I might have found just the thing. And boy was I right. Bounce is bubblegum pop perfection! Filled with a tremendous 80’s vibe, Suzanne Jamieson and her co-writers and producers The Pop Ups, have crafted a light, playful album filled with meaningful lyrics designed to uplift listeners.

The album opens with the title track, “Bounce” about the need to bounce back and not let failures get you down. From there listeners are treated to a collaboration with the Alphabet Rockers on a song that emphasizes the importance of being grateful for the big and small things in life, the totally 80s saxophone driven ballad, “Luna,” about the scary feelings that can emerge once the lights are turned out at night, and “That’s How Happy Feels” which encourages children to take time to recognize the simple things in life that make them happy – whether it’s taking a dip in a neighbor’s pool, nail polish on your fingers and toes, or an ice cream sundae.

Bounce also features several tracks that empower listeners.  Children are encouraged to be “Brave” even when feeling shy, scared, or nervous, while in “You Got This,” the affirmation “you’re stronger than you think, you got this” is repeated in the chorus. Jamieson’s background as a certified yoga therapist shines in the upbeat “Om Shanti” which teaches that when you’re feeling anxious or angry, take a moment or two to find some peace instead. 

Not only is Jamieson’s latest album a great collection of pop music for children and tweens, but it’s exactly what children (and adults) need right now – music that soothes, uplifts, and brings joy into our lives. 

Take a music break and and dance along to the video below that teaches us, “when life hands me lemons, I make lemonade.”

 

Wendy & DB’s Kids Music Festival

By nature, children’s musicians are a generous group of people with big, loving hearts and during this pandemic, their spirit of giving has only grown. Today I would like to highlight the latest music fest from Chicago’s own Wendy & DB. Over the past six months, not only did this dynamic duo release a new album, Hey Big World they also launched a monthly Kids Music Festival to benefit organizations such as this month’s recipient, No Kid Hungry. Making sure that children have access to proper nutrition and healthy food is a passion of Wendy’s and is extremely important in this time when so many children are doing remote learning and don’t have regular access to proper meals. It is the hope of Wendy & DB that these music fests will increase awareness of this issue as well as raise money to help ensure children all across the country receive the food they need to fuel their minds and bodies.

Each month, Wendy & DB are joined by 2-3 different friends from the world of children’s music. During the concert on September 16, in addition to music from Wendy & DB, fest attendees will also enjoy performances by Val Smalkin, Brady Rymer, and Falu. For more information, visit the Kids Music Festival event pageCan’t make it to the Kids Music Festival this month? Wendy & DB will be hosting a fest with an all new musical line-up the third Wednesday of each month from now through the end of the year.

For a preview of the fun that you’re going to have during the hour-long festival, enjoy Wendy & DB’s newest video, “Kitchen Band.”

Invincible! Performed by Roger Day

Singer-songwriter Roger Day‘s latest album, Invincible!, arrived just in time for the new school year. Filled with songs that encourage children to embrace the super hero within them, this is just the collection of songs that students need in these most unusual of times. From beginning to end, these ten tunes urge children to use their imaginations, be curious, and find their own super powers.

The kindie rock album kicks off with the title tune, “Invincible!” whose chorus proclaims, “Nothing’s impossible. I’m unstoppable. Every puzzle is solvable. I can do anything at all…through the pages of a book.” Sung from the perspective of the child, each track builds upon the theme that you don’t have to be an ordinary super hero (someone fast and strong, who can fly) but instead do your best and be confident and you’ll be the best kind of super hero around. 

Along the way, listeners are prompted to look at all the clues to solve the problem and save the day and be a citizen scientist and take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Aspiring super heroes are also given the wise advice to “Get a Robot First” because they come in awfully handy when you’re in outer space, as well as taught a little about learning how to fly in “Me & My Jetpack.” Every family needs to listen to “The Everyday Hero Song” toward the end of the album. With school starting, this track celebrating bus drivers, school nurses, teachers, police officers and more, is the perfect song to begin conversations about who our everyday heroes are, which heroes we are still getting to see this school year, and if we’re learning remotely, which everyday heroes we are missing.

Invincible!’s empowering message will bolster a whole new generation of super heroes. Below is “Me & My Jetpack,” the newest video from the album. Watch it, make your own jetpack, and “fly” around your neighborhood showing off the super hero powers that are unique to you!  

 

Video Premiere – “Sae Taryeong” performed by Elena Moon Park

My husband and I spent most of this weekend working on rebuilding our deck. Our backyard is ringed by old oak trees and marshland and while we were outside we kept hearing these high pitched long screeches coming from the branches above us. For the first couple of hours we couldn’t figure out what creature could possibly be responsible for such a sound. Then, in the early afternoon we finally caught a glimpse of two young hawks practicing their flying techniques. Were they the source of that unusual bird call? Last night we spent some time online searching out examples of what young hawks sound like, and just like that, the puzzle was solved. Our hawk friends were back again this morning, but now that we knew whose bird call was echoing through the air, it was easier to follow the sound and see the glorious youngsters high in the trees.

This experience very much reminds me of “Sae Taryeong,” one of the tracks from Elena Moon Park‘s most recent album, Unhurried Journey. “Sae Taryeong” is a well known folk song from the southwestern region of Korea that tells the story of birds on a hillside in the spring who are calling to one another. The song’s lyrics are a lovely blend of Korean and English that engage listeners and will have them calling “sook-sook, sook-sook,” back to the sparrows, bluebirds, and robins.

The video for “Sae Taryeong” is a whimsical blend of colors, collage, and video that perfectly captures the song’s celebration of nature in springtime. Created by composer and musician, Natacha Diels, “Sae Taryeong” presents unique imagery not often found in music videos for children. For more information about the song including lyrics and how to listen to bird calls, visit the “Sae Taryeong” page on the Unhurried Journey album website. Enjoy the video for “Sae Taryeong” below and next time you’re outside, take a minute to stop and say “sook-sook” to the birds above.

Backyard Bop Performed by Red Yarn

Red Yarn Backyard Bop album coverDo you need a pick me up? A return to a time when life wasn’t filled with constant worry and stress? Then Backyard Bop is just the thing for you! This latest album from Red Yarn is filled with original songs that are guaranteed to get the whole family moving and singing along. The collection kicks off with the rockabilly dance party title track before sliding into the high energy “Jump for Joy,” which reminds us that even though life is hard right now, there are still lots of reasons to be joyful, and what better way to celebrate than with lots and lots of jumping. There are several nods to animals including in the uptempo folk rock “Critters in My Garden” (boy can I relate to that!) and the celebration of “Cats & Dogs.” Woven throughout the album are several ways to enjoy the simple things in life as well. These include a beautiful song about watching the amazing show that nature puts on “Outside My Window,” saying hi to old friends, making new ones, and caring for one another as you roll “Around This Town” (featuring Mo Phillips and Aaron Nigel Smith), and using your imagination to go on all kinds of incredible adventures in “My Own Backyard.” In addition, “Town Hall Meeting” is the perfect song to help children understand that while it’s important to stand up and have your voices heard, it’s equally important to respect one another even when we disagree. Backyard Bop is a fantastic addition to Red Yarn’s catalog of music. Take a listen, share it with a friend, take a moment to look out the window, then jump and dance and spread some joy! 

Video Spotlight – “Giant & Colossal Squid” performed by Marsha and the Positrons

Welcome to Shark Week! However, rather than highlighting a song about a family of sharks, instead I want to shed some light on two other creatures of the sea – the giant squid and the colossal squid. In their latest video, Washington, D.C. based Marsha and the Positrons shine a spotlight on these two fascinating creatures. Filled with lots of fun facts about these invertebrates, “Giant & Colossal Squid” is a fun science song from the album Positronic. The lightheartedness of the song is perfectly paired with a video that combines the live action band with animation and simple puppetry. The lyrics appearing on the screen as they are sung is an added bonus and helps listeners to catch all the details being shared about these fascinating animals. Add “Giant & Colossal Squid” to every animal lovers playlist.

I’m Back – a Note of Gratitude!

Hello Friends! I’ve really missed you. The last five months have been – overwhelming, uncertain, worrisome, scary, aggravating, all-consuming, and so much more. As musicians, librarians, educators and parents we’ve been personally affected in different ways, but as a society, we’ve all struggled with how do I do my job now? How do I schedule my day? How do I meet all my commitments? Or, what do I do now that my commitments have disappeared? And, how casual is too casual for yet another Zoom meeting?

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in the Youth Services department in a public library. When we closed to the public at 6:00 pm on March 16, we truly believed we would be back in the building by April 1. Oh, what a surprise this virus had in store for us. Our challenges have included – how do I change my job from one that was based very heavily in in-person customer service, to one that had to be done exclusively online and completely from home? And not only from home, but without any of the resources I would normally have. And how do I prove my “worth” when I am not seen? Of course, just as we were really hitting our stride in the virtual world, it was time to think about returning to work. The struggle then was not only how do we go back to work safely, but how do we feel safe at work? And finally, how do we welcome the public back into the building in a way that is safe for all? Needless to say, these things took up much more of my brain space than I expected and Kids Rhythm and Rock had to take a backseat for a while.

One of the things that has sustained me all these months though is music. To relax, I listen to music from the 1980s. Mostly for nostalgia and just because it makes me happy. During our “current normal” (a phrase that a co-worker threw out the other day in lieu of “new normal”) I haven’t just been listening to music, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. This made me realize that there have been many, many factors in my life that have fostered a love of music, so I thought now would be a good time to share those and to say thank you. So, THANK YOU:

  • to my parents who listened to classical music and Broadway recordings. Who, even when times were tight, took us to symphony and community band concerts and local musical theater productions.
  • to my parents again who encouraged me to explore music (I think in the hopes of overcoming my extreme shyness). From a children’s music class at the local college, to buying me a teal recorder on which I taught myself the chorus to “Watch Out for Goofy!” (from Mickey Mouse Disco, one of my favorite kids albums) to cutting up an old broom handle so that I could practice my lummi stick skills at home, my parents never said no to affordable musical ventures.
  • to the public schools in my home town who supported band, choir, and orchestra. Because of them I was able to experience the joys of playing the cello beginning in fifth grade.
  • to Dr. Copenhaver at Grand Valley State University who gave little ole me a small music scholarship even though I wasn’t a music major or minor. One of the requirements of the scholarship was that I had to take weekly cello lessons. During these lessons, I didn’t just learn about playing the cello, I also received a big dose of music theory.
  • to my university who allowed me to take a voice performance class as an elective even though I still wasn’t in the music program and to the marching band who let me, a member of the color guard, take band for credit which meant I had to play an instrument during concert season – let me introduce you to my mad triangle skills.
  • to my Gran. Her record collection introduced me to crooners like Perry Como and Andy Williams as well as the crazy bass vocals in the classic country hit “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys.
  • to MTV. I was a teen during the golden age of MTV when you couldn’t stream music and videos online. If you wanted to know what the Top 10 videos of the week were, you had to sit through the whole countdown. And it’s because of this lack of instant gratification, that my appreciation for a diverse range of musical genres grew. If it hadn’t been for MTV, would I, a shy girl from a small town in Michigan, have known who Public Enemy, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, TLC, and Lisa, Lisa & Cult Jam were? Would just listening on the radio have made me a fan of Nirvana, Amy Grant and The Red Hot Chili Peppers?
  • to YOU. Those who are making children’s music, who are promoting children’s music and who love and support children’s music.

I learn so much from all of you. Thank you for continuing to make such wonderful, entertaining, educational, impactful music. I have a big stack of albums that have come out this year just waiting for me. I’m ready to dive back in now and look forward to giving them all a listen.

Thank you! You’ll be hearing from me again real soon.

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