Classic Children's Songs

Delightful recital for children from 4 to 94

Author: 
John Steane

Classic Children's Songs

  • (The) Owl and the Pussy-cat
  • From A Child's Garden, My Bed is a Boat
  • Henry King
  • (The) Land of Counterpane, Singing
  • Vespers
  • Pancake Tuesday
  • Dream Songs, 1. Dream-song
  • (The) Lady Who Loved a Pig
  • Peacock Pie, Full moon
  • Malice at Buckingham Palace
  • They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace
  • Hello Jolly Guardsman
  • (The) Duck and the Kangaroo
  • (A) Garland for Marjory Fleming, 4. Sweet Isabell
  • (The) Just So Song Book, 7. Merrow Down
  • (The) Just So Song Book, 8. Of all the tribe of Tegumai
  • My Boy Jack
  • Mr Kartoffel
  • (The) Engineer
  • Granny
  • (5) Songs, Poor Henry
  • (A) Smuggler's Song
  • From A Child's Garden, The Lamplighter
  • Bilbo's Last Song
  • (A) Child's Garden of Verses, (The) Swing
  • Slow march
  • Ducks' Ditty
  • Tit for Tat, Tit for Tat
  • Mr Majeika's Song
  • (3) Songs, Five eyes
  • Namárië
  • How Doth the Little Crocodile
  • (3) Songs, No. 2, Theodore, or The pirate king
  • (A) Child's Garden of Verses, When the Golden Day is Done
  • Wynken, Blynken and Nod

I'm not sure that modern children will be very happy to gather around the record player and listen to Christopher Robin is saying his prayers, but they will probably be very helpful in showing how to implement the suggestion on the back page about where to access information about sung texts on the internet. The booklet itself is a great asset, containing as it does admirable essays by Simon and Philip Machin on the literature and music. Moreover, the singers' diction is excellent, so at first one sees no need to complain about the omission of printed texts. But the songs and their words flit by so fast and in such quick succession, and there are too many times when you want to catch them by the shirt-tails to make sure of this word and that (and sometimes, as in Spike Milligan's Hello Jolly Guardsman, the key-words). So I'm afraid parents will have to access their children if only to get on to that “www.” business.

Otherwise, it's probably best just to forget about the children. This is an unusual, and generally delightful, song recital in which there are certain to be discoveries as well as once-familiar items long unheard. The list of contents above refers to “many more”: among these are Herbert Howell's lazy-nostalgic setting of Full Moon, words by Walter de la Mare whose poems often have a dark side as in the mock-tragic Poor Henry (Lennox Berkeley), the comic-sinister Five Eyes (Armstrong Gibbs) and not so comical Tit for Tat (Britten). Uncommon, too, are settings by Donald Swann of lyrics by Tolkien, one of them, Namárië, hauntingly sung in an unknown tongue, unaccompanied and with beautiful tone by Roderick Williams.

All three artists give pleasure: both singers vivid in expression and natural in style, and the pianist, Iain Burnside, expert at spotting those features in the accompaniments (the concealed melody, the rhythmic lift) which amateurs will often miss. And for the children: there's a chance they may quite like the idea of the pirate king, Theodore who “though dripping gore was always courteous to the ladies”.

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