As I mentioned in my last post, October is one of the favorite times of the year at my house. One of the reasons for that is that our wedding anniversary is on October 31. We chose that date specifically because it was Halloween (and it was a Saturday). Guests wore costumes, there was a jack o’ lantern on the top of the cake and the reception was decorated with giant tombstones. While the wedding and reception celebrated a more modern version of Halloween, the invitations and the rest of the graphics all featured classic Halloween images like the one to the left. As soon as I started watching the video below, it immediately reminded me of those images and transported me to a different time.
EVT Kids is making a name for themselves on the children’s music scene. Yvette and Tom lead this bilingual family band with their two daughters joining in the fun. The video for their latest song, “Spooky Halloween Night,” features gray and black illustrations reminiscent of Halloween artwork from several different time periods. The vocals harken back to a bygone era that brings eerie jazz elements to the song making the tone just spooky enough to enjoy but not too scary to listen to. Make sure to watch all the way to the end so that you don’t miss a surprise rap that somehow fits right in. The melody to “Spooky Halloween Night” will haunt you (in a good way!) for days to come.
Before you celebrate your own spooky Halloween night, make sure to take a listen to the new Halloween EP Little, Wild and Spooky! from New Zealand children’s artist Claudia Robin Gunn. This three song collection includes “Spooktacular!” a clever counting song that includes suggestions for different types of vegetables that you can carve, “Leaf Skeletons” that imagines what would happen if the skeleton leaves at the bottom of the pile started dancing, and “Friendly Monsters” that celebrates dressing up, costume parties, and imaginary friends.
Oh, it’s so good to be back! After an unexpected hiatus, it feels great to once again be surrounded by the talent, generosity, and kindness of the children’s music world. And what better time of the year to return than during the magical, mystical, pumpkin-spiced delight that is October. So much incredible children’s music debuted while I was gone, and we’ll get to that in the coming weeks, but for today, I want to celebrate the season that in my house is “the most wonderful time of the year” by featuring new videos that shine a spotlight on two upcoming holidays.
The first video is “Halloween Crew” from Little Miss Ann. The muted, almost sepia tones, of the animation perfectly match the slightly spooky lyrics which appear on the screen. Children will love singing along while pretending to be different members of the Halloween Crew.
The second video is for a Spanish language song from Colombian-born, Los Angeles-basedNathalia, that celebrates Día de los Muertos. Beautiful, brightly colored animation highlights all of the elements that go into honoring the lives of loved ones who have come and gone. Lyrics are available in both Spanish and English on Nathalia’s website.
Full disclosure – Halloween is kind of a big deal at my house. New decorations started arriving in June this year. First it was a couple of blow mold black cats in the living room, then it was black cat pumpkin figures peering from unexpected places (and often getting mistaken for our actual black cat) when the Grandin Road fall catalog appeared in July. As we slowly cruised into autumn, it was a few Halloween goodies from the local grocery store on the kitchen table soon to be followed by bowls and plates and platters as prices were slashed to make room on store shelves for the Christmas decorations. Plans are being made for our annual Halloween costume party with evening discussions often surrounding what the lighting should look like, what theme we should go with throughout the house this time, and what creepy food we should serve. And then there’s the outside decorations. Did I mention that work on the light show began back in January? January!! It’s going to be amazing.
Decorations aren’t the only thing essential to Halloween. So is a good soundtrack. After all these years of celebrating All Hallows Eve, I have a pretty prolific collection of Halloween themed music, but as with any holiday, there is always room for more. So what better way to start off the spookiest of seasons than with a brand new song from Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats? Released last Friday, “Flick of My Wrist” is a fantastically orchestrated tune that allows Kalantari’s rollicking vocals to dance around the lyrics as they describe the exploits of a young witch whose use of her power leads to unexpected results. It would be absolutely ghastly if you dared to leave “Flick of My Wrist” off of your Halloween playlist! Take a listen, and Happy Haunting!
It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the time of year when the stores put all of the Thanksgiving items on clearance, the pre-Black Friday sales begin, and local radio stations start playing Christmas music. And all of that before the family has even arrived to enjoy the abundance of deliciousness known as Thanksgiving dinner. So, since all signs point to it being “that time of year,” over the next month I’ll be highlighting several new family albums that celebrate the holidays.
First up is the delightful It’s the Holidays! from Brooklyn-based Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats. This collection of five jazz age inspired originals celebrates the holidays between Halloween and New Year’s. The album kicks things off with the clever “My Mommy is a Mummy” (keep this one in mind for Halloween 2018) and is followed by “Grateful,” a rare song about Thanksgiving. This is a lovely tune about family and food, but also about the importance of putting aside our differences and acknowledging those things in life for which we are grateful. Take a listen.
Just as the seasons transition from fall to winter, so do the songs on this album. “It’s Snowing” gets listeners thinking about how fun it is to get all bundled up to go outside and of all the exciting things children can do in the snow when they get there. This fast-paced song would work great in winter-themed storytimes as kids dance to the various activities described in the song like stomp, jump, run, slide, and climb. “It’s Snowing” also acts as a nice bridge to the final two songs on the album.
The title track, “It’s the Holidays!” is a bouncy celebration of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and a lovely New Year. The refrain, “It’s the holidays in our community/we celebrate all in unity,” encourages listeners to take the time to honor our differences. Finally, the album is capped off with “That’s a Wrap!” a short (1:37 min.) tune that tells listeners “Let’s wrap up this year and say goodbye” and would be a great addition to any New Year’s Eve programs.
While shorter than the average album, Kalantari, backed by a group of amazing musicians, has created an album that families will listen to again and again. It’s the Holidays! is the perfect start to “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Looking for a quick dose of Halloween fun? Try Sara Lovell’s new video, “The Skeleton Band” from her Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winning album, You’ve Got Me. Take a peek as a young boy sneaks into the woods and comes upon a band made up of skeletons, if you dare.
Last week I asked some friends and colleagues for their favorite Halloween/October stories, songs and fingerplays. Below is a sampling of what was shared with me. I would love to hear from you. What are some of your favorites?
Creepy Carrots! By Aaron Reynolds The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams The Rabbi and the 29 Witches by Marilyn Hirsh
“Spider on the Floor” performed by Raffi – hand out rubber spiders for children to use during the song
“Monster Mash” (your favorite version) – dance with scarves or march with musical instruments
“Have You Seen the Ghost of John?” – perfect for those old enough to want to be scared but young enough to find singing about a chilly bunch of bones to be scary Boo, Cackle, Trick or Treat album performed by Sue Schnitzer
Fingerplays/Flannel Stories/Movement Activities
“In a Dark, Dark Wood” this can be told as a story on its own, or as a flannel story. Adjusting the story to your environment can be a fun way to draw children in.
“5 Little Pumpkins”
Jbrary on YouTube is great for songs and chants anytime of the year. Here is just one of their offerings for fall/Halloween storytimes.