My choir friends were discussing the songs they sang in their families growing up. Because they are musicians, they even ventured to demonstrate singing these wonderful little songs. One friend told about a teacher who gave an assignment to her "Mommy and Me" class to compile a Family Songbook. The mothers and children were to list the songs they liked to sing in their families and include the sheet music or (at least) the words in a decorated binder. As we were singing and remembering, we noticed how many were variations on songs we all knew. Obviously we all grew up in singing families or at least in families that recognized the value of singing to children.
My sister reminded me of our family songs and how it was our dad who did most of this kind of recreational singing. Our mother was the musician with the amazing piano chops and lovely trained soprano voice. She could sing and play a vast array of songs from Broadway to Jazz to Opera to Oratorio. But it was our dad who passed down to us the sing-around-the campfire and lullaby songs his parents sang in his home. On long car trips, Dad would start "A-round the corner, yoo-hoo, beneath the berry tree, A-long the footpath, behind the bush, lookin' for Betsy Lee." We, of course, would all join in and giggle when each of our names were included in the song. What a treasure to have memories of those family songs!
One of my friends, an elementary school music teacher, lamented the fact that the singing of lullabies is a dying art. He feared that children more and more are put to bed to a TV show or CD playing than having a parent cuddle and sing to them. I remember attempting to sing lullabies to my first baby. It was not successful. This boy, even before he was born, would not let me sing much, especially not high notes. It was very clear he preferred low notes. His dad could sing silly, dumb songs to him and he would respond and be happy. But whenever I tried, all this kid would do is wail. It hurt my pride. Maybe I was trying too hard. Preparing an entire repertoire of art song literature is probably not the best choice for the simple bedtime routine. Possibly the best lullabies are the silly little nonsense songs and nursery rhymes that signal to the child what comes next in their day such as nap time or bedtime. Just a little something to set the routine. All I know is that daddy was more successful with the singing at bedtime in our household than I, the trained singer, was.
So what would be included in my Family Songbook, I wonder? What would my children say we sang a lot? I think they would be able to list entire scores from Disney movies and Broadway musicals and some folksongs. We were especially proficient at Beatles songs. They could probably list a lot of prepared choral pieces that we sang together as a family. They would probably list a lot of Christmas songs, particularly the songs we sang on Aunt Janie's Christmas Shows, such as "Jingle Bells." We did a lot of parodies of popular songs. Boy, could we ruin lyrics! The exercise of remembering could be a lot of fun. Maybe this can be our project for this summer's family reunion.