Authors: Peter and Mary Alice Amidon
A Song in my Heart is a compilation of the best of our children’s music CDs recorded over 25 years with 7 additional new songs. It is a celebration of singing and dancing with children in elementary schools, music festivals, and dance camps, and with our own family. The songs reflect the riches of the folk repertoire, both traditional and contemporary. Here are singable choruses, lovely melodies, poetry and ballads: a wealth of songs which make connections with literature and with the universal themes of love, the seasons, and nature.
Many of the elementary schools in southern Vermont’s Windham County hold an All School Sing: a weekly gathering of staff, students, and some parents. Many of the songs on the ‘Song in My Heart’ CD were sung at the All School Sings we led when we were music teachers. Some songs marked the year: Martin Luther King for his birthday, Harriet Tubman for Black History Month, "Silver Rain" for Thanksgiving, "This Pretty Planet" for Earth Day, and "Mail Myself to You" for Valentine’s Day. We always enjoyed singing the song "Country Life", a rousing traditional English song from the Waterson family which sings of the joys of the seasons. "Now It’s Time to Go", Peter’s round, would often mark the end of the sing.
We composed two of the songs on Song in My Heart to deal with conflict resolution and bullying. My "Say What You Want" was inspired by a Responsive Classroom workshop on conflict resolution. Peter was commissioned by a school in Lititz, PA to write a song for their school about "Celebrating the Differences” and to include a verse about bullying, so he wrote "Brotherhood and Sisterhood". John McCutcheon’s wonderful song "The Kindergarten Wall" deals so well with social themes as well: “don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess!”
Song in My Heart includes our song settings of poems: Peter’s setting of "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear and my "Johnny Appleseed" by Steven and Rosemary Vincent Binet. Both of these poems have been published in picture book version, so one way to use the songs is to ‘sing’ the poems to the children or show them the picture books to the songs on the CD. “Singing” a book creates an opportunity to make a strong connection with literacy; "What a Wonderful World" and "I Miss You Everyday" (a companion to the Woody Guthrie song Mail Myself to You) are available as picture books. A kindergarten teacher once remarked to me that young children are intimately connected to a song, more so than to the written word, and therefore a book of a song is a dynamic tool for literacy learning. Big books and charts of songs also augment the experience of both written and oral language.
Orff teacher Judith Thomas remarked on the importance and integrity of “universals” in selection of repertoire. Sun, moon, stars, nature, and the seasons are reflected in many of the songs here. "Mr. Moon" and "Great Big Star" are elegantly simple tunes and examples of this both great for solos by children. Raffi’s "All I Really Need" is a hymn to universals: the sun and rain, food and a loving family as what we really need. My song "I’m Growing Up" was written to compliment a study of the life cycle. "The Seed in the Ground" by Connie Caldor is a celebration of the growth cycle of the seed into the flower and beginning again.
One second grade teacher used the song "Gentle Heart" to celebrate a child’s birthday: “If you want your dreams to be, take your time, go slowly, do few things but do them well, heartfelt work grows purely”, wise words to live by. We hope that this CD will both inspire many and fill children with songs in their hearts.