Category Archives: music

She Used to Be Mine

I’m really excited because this week I’m finally going to see Waitress. I’ve loved this song since I heard Jessie Mueller sing it on the Tony awards a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to record it ever since.

Through the many transitions of life, we all have times when we no longer recognise ourselves and long for our younger selves. I felt this loss of identity, intensely when I was at home all day with three small children. There seemed to be no time for me, to look after my appearance, to get out of the house and be myself or to have a purpose other than being a mum. As they get older, after so many years of being at home, I struggle to find my purpose and identity when they are not around.

As I approach my late 40’s, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if it is really me. I long for my youthful skin and slender body. However, some of the things I missed when I was a mum of young children, are creeping back. I’ve rediscovered old hobbies like dancing and singing  and explored new ones, like playing the ukulele.  This is my first recorded attempt at playing an instrument and singing at the same time (a new and exciting skill for me).  As the song says ‘she’s imperfect but she tries’. Fear of being imperfect holds me back in many things, this is an attempt to let some of that go.

Almost every decade past the age of thirty brings a shift in identity; becoming parents, returning to the workforce, kids leaving home, divorce and separation, retirement, old age, all make us re-evaluate who we are. This song is a sad song about wishing you were who you used to be, but also a song of hope. The people we used to be are still there, we are those people, but our life experiences add depth to them. It is natural to miss who we used to be, but carry them with you through life, they are us and we are them.

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Art Lessons: Abstract Painting to Music

 

WP_20160318_003One way to ensure that you don’t end up with a wall of identical paintings is to introduce children to abstract art.  We used the book The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art as a starting point.  The book tells the story of Kandinsky’s ability to ‘see music’ and ‘hear paintings’.

I explained that abstract art is not about creating a particular thing but is about expressing how you feel.

Each child had a pallet of acrylic paints, 2 different sized paintbrushes, a canvas, a pot of water and paper towel to wash and dry  the brushes.  I showed them how to clean their brushes by washing it in the water and drying it with the paper towel.

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The children began when I played the music – I chose a quiet piece to add focus, Dvorak’s Largo from Symphony no. 9.

Some children were engrossed in colour mixing, while others enjoyed layering colours one on top of the other.  Some concentrated on texture and others focused on shape and colour.

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The strong focus on process lead to an interesting discussion with the teacher after class.  We lamented the lack of time children in Kindergarten and beyond, to experiment with paint and the impact this has on their motor development. I always feel my lessons should be in at least 2 parts, one for discovery and process and the another to create a product. I wish there was time for the children to practice skills and develop.  My eldest daughter attends a school where the whole curriculum is taught through the medium of visual and performing arts – are there any creative elementary teachers out there doing the same?

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Why Singing and Dancing Promote Social Skills and Friendship

singing kidsResearch has shown that singing increases happiness and emotional well-being.  People feel happier after singing than simply listening to music, probably due to the release of neurochemicals in the brain.

It isn’t news to me that singing lifts your mood.  The quiet teenager that would skip along the road after my weekly singing lesson, head held high and ready to conquer the world is testament to that. When I sang I came alive, through singing I could truly let go. I grew up loving musicals, perhaps because it is perfectly acceptable to sing and dance down the road in a musical and everyone is always happy.

Singing as a group has additional benefits, according to recent research from Oxford University.    Singing in a group encourages social bonding, and singing groups form friendships more quickly than in other group activities. Group dancing also produces similar results, suggesting that a shared musical experience and working together are key factors.  Many of my closest friends were made during my musical theatre days and joining choir was the perfect way to meet people and make friends, when moving to a new country.  A large proportion of the ladies in my choir joined because they were new to the area and wanted to meet new people, whilst sharing their passion for singing. Perhaps if we mix in a little dance we will be even closer?

Singing is a natural way for parents to bond with babies .  As a singer, I instinctively sang to my newborn babies when I was alone with them for the first time.  Often a parent will get their first reactions from a baby when they sing to them. Smiles, laughter, calming, eye contact or gesture can all be encouraged through singing.

When my eldest was born, I felt privileged that as an early education teacher, I  knew lots of songs to share with my baby. With this in mind, I started a baby music group with my antenatal group. My aim was to reach out to others and introduce them to songs that they could share with their babies.  With hindsight, this not only helped the babies but also gave this group of new mothers the chance to socialise, at one of the most vulnerable times of their life. As new mothers singing to their babies, it didn’t matter if they felt they ‘couldn’t sing’  and we quickly built strong friendships.

Group singing was an important part of my teaching day and something I was very comfortable leading.  This confidence wasn’t shared by all the teachers but some approached singing time with enthusiasm and energy, even if they believed their own singing voices to be terrible. The children responded to the teachers who could have fun and draw them in, musical proficiency was never a factor. Singing in a group is a fundamental part of many preschool settings and is one of the ways in which children learn to work together. In order to create a unified sound the children have to listen to one another and share in the experience together.

Young children are instinctively drawn to music and dance and sing without restraint. This usually remains with them until the age at which they become self-conscious and concerned about whether they are good enough. Reluctance to sing may also arise as singing becomes  performance focused rather than purely for pleasure.

One of my favourite memories of Christmas time, was the year my great aunts came to visit my grandparents. The sisters sat around the keyboard as my Auntie played and we all sang for hours.  That family togetherness is difficult to replicate in other situations. My great aunts grew up in the era before television, when singing around the piano was part of everyday life.  I believe that it is important for children to see that singing (and dancing) isn’t about winning a talent show.  Sing along to the radio on car journeys, make up silly songs or fire up some karaoke videos and sing along.

When we have friends around it nearly always ends up with a round of karaoke and it has paved the way to some of the best parties. I love that young and old, singers and non-singers join in and it is always accompanied by laughter and friendship.singing

Introducing Children to Welsh Through Song, with Babi Bach the Album

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My 4-year-old has just learned her first Welsh word ,’canu’ meaning to sing.

How does a child living in the US with non- Welsh speaking parents learn such a word?  From the wonderful, bilingual album, the girls received as a gift.  The album was created by a friend of mine who runs ‘Babi Bach’ a bilingual music group in South Wales.  The girls are fascinated by this unfamiliar language and love it when I tell them the meaning of a Welsh word.

The songs are familiar favourites, including, row, row ,row your boat, incey wincey spider and one finger, one thumb and are sung by male and female voices, in both English and Welsh.   The Welsh versions brought back distant memories of my days as a student teacher in Wales. As an added surprise, when browsing the cover,  I recognised one of the singers as a child who attended my after-school club in the 90’s.  My friend confirmed that it was him, all grown up and singing professionally. More happy memories of home.

Living in the US, my children are unlikely to hear the Welsh Language.  I’m not a Welsh speaker but the Welsh language was at the forefront of my early school years. We had Welsh assembly once a week, played games in Welsh and learned the Welsh language. The girls are fascinated that there is this strange language that is only spoken in Wales.

The girls sing along in English and try their best to join in with the Welsh.  Initially, they spouted  gibberish, laughing hysterically at the complicated words in ‘head, shoulders,knees and toes. My Welsh isn’t really strong enough to help them but I point out the words I recognise. My next step is to print off the Welsh lyrics , so I can sing along. The songs are separated by enthusiastic conversations between a group of friends in both languages, so it is easy for them to follow.

After hearing the songs a few times, they are already beginning to sing along in Welsh even without my help.

I can highly recommend this for Welsh parents who have moved away from Wales. It is the perfect  introduction to the Welsh language.  Equally, it is a simple and fun way to learn Welsh for children living in Wales.

Digital copies of Babi Bach yr Albwm are available from Amazon Music and other digital music platforms.

Disclaimer :This is not a sponsored post no payment was received.

The Land of Song – A Guest Post for St. David’s Day

 

Today we have a St. David’s Day guest post from Penni Carr.  I met Penni during my  musical theatre days (sorry Penni for the old photo).  She went on to become a professional actress and since becoming a mum, has founded Babi Bach a bilingual music class for babies and toddlers. Penni writes about the connection the Welsh have with singing and how the Welsh language is an integral part of that. Are Welsh people good singers? Why do we love singing so much?  Read on the find out more…

Penni and Rachel
Welsh people often get asked if they are born being able to sing? As if it is some magical power that Celtic people posses from birth. Now, some people may believe this is true but I believe something slightly different. I believe that Welsh people are born into a heritage rich in tradition and passion and one way that we pass this on is through song.
Children will be taught nursery rhymes and songs in Welsh and English, even if English is the only language spoken at home (which Welsh people here have ever sung “Mi Welais Jac y Do” or “Calon Lan” without learning any other welsh?!) I think that, from birth, singing is something that we usually hear every day and so it becomes something very natural for children to do; to sing along and join in with the song – to pass on the history, the tradition and the language.

Welsh lady
Music is one of the only things that engages the WHOLE brain and, as such, is an incredibly useful teaching aid. I bet you can remember songs that you sang at school when you were five far more easily than you can remember the periodic table! Unless you can sing that too like the fabulous Tom Lehrer!

I founded Babi Bach in September 2013. We are a bilingual baby music class suitable for little ones from birth to three and we use music and songs to help little ones learn languages. We believe that music and language help children develop communication skills, social skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, spatial awareness, community links and, most importantly, it’s FUN! So pass on your song and watch your little ones flourish. All together now…

Mi welais Jac Y Do         ( Me well-ice Jack err Door)

 Yn eistedd ar ben tô      ( Un ‘A’ steth arr ben tor)

Het wen ar ei ben            (Het when arr ‘A’ ben)

A dwy goes bren              ( a doi gois bren)

Ho ho ho ho ho ho!         ( Hor hor hor hor hor hor)

 

Thanks Penni x

Shrek the Musical

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At the age of 2 my daughter would insist I play ‘Evita’ every time we got in the car.  Her favourite DVD was Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat and she is often heard singing ‘Close Every Door to Me’ in a fake vibrato.  A recent favourite is ‘Pirates of Penzance’. At the weekend she waltzed downstairs in a party dress,singing in a falsetto voice and declared ‘I’m Mabel’.

The girls love of musicals is such that I knew they would enjoy ‘Shrek the Musical’. I’m a fan of musical theatre too but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it. As a classic animation I wondered if it would really translate to the stage, why turn it into a musical?  Isn’t everything being made into a musical these days? I was however, pleasantly surprised.

It took a while to get into the songs, at first I felt it was a nice alternative to watching a pantomime, but as it went on I became more and more absorbed. Just as in the animation there are some great characters and the original Broadway cast are spectacular.  I particularly loved Pinocchio, the cross dressing Wolf and Donkey who was even more camp, flamboyant and hilarious on stage than in the animation.

The girls were fascinated by Lord Farquaad’s costume.  They spotted immediately that the legs weren’t real (they thought his tiny feet in the bath were hilarious) but couldn’t work out how they made him so small. The show received a Tony Award in 2009 for best costume design of a musical and I can clearly see why.

I loved the tap dancing rats at the start of Act 2 and the girls were up and dancing along.

It is so expensive to take a family of 5 to a live show these days, so it is refreshing to be able to watch one from the comfort of our sofa.  I thought it was a great family show, I’m not singing any of the songs after the first viewing but I’m sure it won’t be long.  There is a sing-along section on the DVD once we become really familiar with the music.

Musicals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but this one was funny, visually stunning and highly entertaining.  There is something for everyone (with a large dose of cleavage for the dad’s).  I’ll definitely see it live if  it ever comes to town. The UK tour begins in 2014.  At about 2 hours long it is a little long for very young children (my 3-year-old struggled to sit through it) but my 5-year-old was mesmerised. The DVD is a sensible alternative to taking very young children to an expensive live show.

Shrek the Musical is available In the UK from 2nd December 2013 in DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.

Disclosure: No payment was received for writing this post.  A copy of the DVD was received for review purposes.

Outdoor Play: Sound Gardens

Those of you who follow my Facebook Page  may have seen a video of my daughter playing in our sound garden.

If you pop over to Edspire you will find my guest post about how it was built.

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