Re-Bop Records’ latest
delivers lessons with fun November 14, 2003
By Mary Gow
“What can you learn from a 300-Year-Old Goose?” asks singer Sandra Wright. “You can learn to rhyme,” and you can learn to cook, sing, guess, and express scientific stuff,” she explains with help from enthusiastic children singers.
Open your eyes,” she says, “and watch Old Mama Goose go!”
Mama Goose, Father Goose, and a gaggle of Vermont-based and international singers, musicians, and songwriters deftly teach some significant concepts in Re-Bop Records’ newest release “What is it? Musical Math and Science.”
In Re-Bop tradition, the recording entertains, as they say, “kids and their grownups.” In this case, most of the kid audience would be aged 3 to 7. The recording features 18 songs, including many written by Diana Winn, founder of Re-Bop, and East Montpelier’s Colin McCaffrey. The selections are performed by adult singers including Winn, McCaffrey, Wright and Carol Hausner, and child singers including 10-year-old Anneli Blume and 8-year-old Cerridwyn McCaffrey. Other child singers and reciters also perform in several songs.
The recording offers a mix of musical styles – jazz, folk, country, and world music. With lively tunes, the release will inspire many young listeners to clap, sing, and giggle along. The lyrics are witty and sometimes touching. The selections also offer an educational bonus. Foundational math and science concepts are integrated in the lyrics of each song. The lessons aren’t preached – observing, classifying, spatial sense, predicting, and other building blocks of learning are presented in amusing and engaging ways.
Beyond the math and science connections, each song also relates to a picture book. In many cases, the books, like Frank Asch’s “Bear Shadow,” Rosemary Wells’ “Bunny Cakes,” and Catherine Stock’s “Where Are You Going, Manyoni?” inspired the songs. You certainly don’t need the books to enjoy the recording, but if you happen to borrow them or own them, the cross-reference with the books makes an interesting association for children — how stories told with words and illustrations inspire music and different words.
“Muffins Spelled Backwards,” written by McCaffrey, Winn, and Sylvia Ferry Smith, was inspired by “Bunny Cakes,” a warm-hearted story about two siblings’ culinary effort. The polka-like “Muffins” is sung by McCaffrey with his daughters Cerridwyn and Magdalene, looking at the steps and sensory rewards of baking. The science is basic “First we’ll mix the solids together – measure cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Then we’ll mix the liquids together – melt butter ‘til it’s runny, add egg, milk and honey …” Using your senses and learning about the properties of substances are early education about physical science. Measurement and making connections are basic math concepts.
The rhythmic “Tell Me What’s (Guess!)” sung by Wright and several young singers is an exuberant question and answer piece. “Tell me what’s big and blue – sky is, Tell me what’s wet and wild – sea is…” With Wright’s descriptive clues, the children guess answers – doing a little classifying and sequencing along the way.
The tale of “Little Ducky Duddle and the Bikini-Clad Caterpillar,” performed by Anneli Blume and her father, Ed Blume, presents some comical problem solving. It also touches on buoyancy and the trouble with splashing ducks.
Two songs in Spanish, “El Conejo Nicolas,” Nicolas the Bunny, and “El Negrito Cunu Cunu,” a Nicaraguan lullaby, were both written by Mario Montenegro and are sung by Jairo Sequeira. “El Negrito” is a slave mother’s song to her baby who waits while she cares for her master’s infant. The song offers a promise of hope that “very soon little black baby everything will be different.” Both of these are also performed in English.
A colorful sing-along booklet with lyrics for all the songs accompanies each “What Is It?” recording. The booklet has a color coded key that identifies the science and math standards addressed in each selection. The title of the book that inspired each song is also listed.
Since its release earlier this year, Re-Bop’s “What Is It?” has won the Film Advisory Board’s Award of Excellence and the iParenting Media Award.
“What Is It? Musical Math” and science is available on compact disc and audio cassette in music and children’s stores, and at www.reboprecords.com, or at 1-800-OK-REBOP.