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Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs

GUEST,Busker On A Budget 09 Jun 18 - 05:01 PM
Steve Shaw 09 Jun 18 - 08:31 PM
Joe Offer 09 Jun 18 - 09:14 PM
Steve Shaw 10 Jun 18 - 06:50 AM
Mo the caller 10 Jun 18 - 07:16 AM
Mark Ross 10 Jun 18 - 11:21 AM
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Subject: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: GUEST,Busker On A Budget
Date: 09 Jun 18 - 05:01 PM

Where I'm from in the U.S., (well, all over, but more concentratedly so in my region), there's a

veritable traffic-jam
unnecessary plethora

of people styling themselves as kids' entertainers, children's-music performers and other similar appellations.

I've noticed something as I've recently been revisiting the life and works of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, decidedly decedent.

An awful lot (and they are, by and large, an awful lot) of these folks have done one of two things in an effort to present themselves as professional/legitimate/hire-worthy:

1) They've glommed on to 20-plus-year-old elementary-education research that showed that multi-sensory interaction with little kids is developmentally important.

Now, while that's good, what happened as a result of these performers being exposed to that research

(there used to be seminars on the stuff that were open to non-education-licensed layfolk)

is that a whole wave of performers put together almost-identical programs of insipid songs and basic activities like giving each child a shaker/maraca/tambourine to flail along with.

Seriously, I thought I needed experience with that sort of program years ago, and I went to work for a person who had paid for the Deluxe Certificate Package from this or that seminar.

It didn't last long, but when someone pointed me to a daycare center that wanted a substitute singer/musician, I went for an interview and met a man who had never heard of my former employer nor their Deluxe Certificate, but, lo and behold, had his own nearly-identical program, gleaned from his investment in a seminar, the result of which was his own framed Deluxe Certificate.

You can imagine my frustration when I attempted to find out whether anyone was doing things differently. Alas, it was website after free-hosted-website of the same thing.


2) they've decided that playing classic-rock songs and/or trying to instruct children in performing said odious noise is a good way to teach them music and to make it seem educational and developmentally beneficial.

Whereas there was a preponderance of amateurish guitar-chorders handing out rattles and blowing soap bubbles, next there were "School Of Rock" clones everywhere.

I'm not intending to be entirely dismissive of either approach as a whole. There certainly can be some benefits to social interactions around music with one's peers at young ages, I grant.

What intrigues me is how markedly different these approaches were/are from the efforts of people like Guthrie. No, not a simple man to admire - he was difficult to know or to gauge from day to day, his friends and biographers have said.

Not a massive talent as a vocalist or instrumentalist, and certainly possessed of more than a little self-conscious positioning/presenting of himself as a man of the people (not inauthentic, just careful).

His ability to just encapsulate the playfulness and absurdist fun of childlike language, though!

I'd put "Riding In My Car" and "Howdido" and more of Woody's songs, even "grown up" songs, a shelf above most of the material foisted upon unsuspecting parental patrons by the Deluxe Certificate crowd any day.

Your thoughts?

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Subject: RE: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 09 Jun 18 - 08:31 PM

It's true that Woody wasn't a great singer, strummer or blues harp player, compared to many, but he's the ultimate example of a man whose sum is infinitely greater than his parts. To me, sublime.

"His ability to just encapsulate the playfulness and absurdist fun of childlike language, though!"

That's spot on. But he could also, in a three-minute song, use language to hit the nail in the head just as well as any Shakespeare or Dylan. To cut right through, to do that thing that most poets, strain as they will, fail to do, to articulate for you in words a beautiful thought that was deep inside you somewhere but which you couldn't quite draw out for yourself.

"The misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray..."

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Subject: RE: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Jun 18 - 09:14 PM

I dunno. I've done performances for kids all my life, without any sort of certificate other than word-of-mouth, and I think I'm pretty good. I kinda think that "Busker" is making a lot of cynical noise without having actually experienced many of the performers he's generalizing about.
Most of the people I've seen entertaining children, are quite good.


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Subject: RE: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 10 Jun 18 - 06:50 AM

Maybe. You'd know more about that than I do. But he asked for our thoughts and I confined mine to one of my great enthusiasms that he alluded to.

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Subject: RE: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: Mo the caller
Date: 10 Jun 18 - 07:16 AM

I don't know about certificates (maybe we have less of them in UK, or used to have).
What I think you need is both a love of children and of music.
I often did a music session at the end of a Playgroup morning (3 & 4 yr olds), yes percussion to shake, scrape and bang - cheap enough that everyone can have one. We sang the familiar songs (wheels on the bus, bananas in pyjamas, 2ducks/3frogs/10 bottles etc) and sometimes listened to recordings both of folk dance music and classical, to move or play along to. The children sometimes had a turn to 'conduct' the band, indicating loud and soft and the others had to follow.

Very simple stuff at that age but they gain control and listening skills. More than just waving a shaker around.

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Subject: RE: Howdido (Guthrie) and children's songs
From: Mark Ross
Date: 10 Jun 18 - 11:21 AM

I practice child abuse (playing banjo & fiddle for pre-schoolers) on a regular basis. Favorite songs? ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI, ONE MEATBALL, TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE STAR(I sometimes sing "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat..little slug, etc). The kids favorite is at the end of the session when they get down on their bellies pretending to hammer as we sing I'VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. We then get in line, with me up front with banjo, harmonica, and RR whistle, and proceed down the hallway with the kids going "Whoo, whoo," making believe that we are a train.

Mark Ross

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