For the past couple of years, our family has been taking little weekend trips during Thanksgiving. Our extended family is scattered throughout the United States so we typically focus the rest of our holidays and travel efforts on visits with them. This Thanksgiving, we spent some time at Legoland in San Diego. While we were waiting on line for the 4D Legends of Chima movie, we met a family who has been coming to Legoland every Thanksgiving for the past 12 years. Chuckling, as he was talking about family holiday plans, the dad said “I know we’re crazy but we love it. It’s just what we do.” What he said didn’t strike me as crazy, though.
Family traditions are special and memorable, and quickly become beloved habits. They form bonds, are reliable, and give children a sense of ownership and something to look forward to. It made me happy to think that traveling with just my husband and my daughter could turn into a special holiday tradition for us.
Our family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas. Chanukah brings songs of peace and celebration as we light the menorah. With regard to Christmas, we prep in our own home by playing the CD A Charlie Brown Christmas as soon as our tree is up. No decorating takes place until the music is playing. It’s simply something that sets the tone, and gets us in the mood for the holidays. We also visit with our extended family for Christmas, and watch as Em wakes up to find filled stockings and gifts under the tree. In the evening, we launch into a post-dinner dance party battle. It’s a rager and it’s so fun! No surprise that music is the centerpiece of our holiday celebrations.
Sharing stories of tradition and hearing from the family during our Legoland trip, added a feeling of connection and another element of joy for me this holiday season. It was a nice reminder that amidst the hustle and bustle of it all, there are sweet, sentimental moments to be grateful for. Besides, it’s always fun to hear other people’s stories.
As an addition to holiday music posts, today’s post features friends and artists sharing their holiday traditions from their own childhood, things they do with their families now, and of course some music. Continue reading →
“You’ve gotta be who you’ve gotta be, a dancing plant or a cat who skis // A boy in a dress, a girl in a tree, you be you, I’ll be me.” – “It Takes All Kinds,” All Kinds of You and Me
Artists in the kids’ music genre frequently reference two classic albums that inspired them and whose music embodies their same values: Schoolhouse Rock and Free to Be…You and Me. No doubt that both are landmarks, and it’s easy to see why many artists making music for families aspire to carry on the legacy of these albums and uphold the same values and messages.
Understandably, creating a modern day version of such a notable and groundbreaking album like Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be would be quite a feat. However, if anyone were to approach this task, Alastair Moock is the man.To take on such an epically classic album that has impacted so many people and challenged society’s view of our world takes courage and really the perfect amount of humor and swagger. And I don’t mean swagger like Jagger.Well, maybe in that way, but we’re talking about the children’s music genre. Think G-rated swagger.
In Free to Be, Thomas very directly spoke to her 1970’s society, proclaiming equality across all conceivable categories. With his latest album, All Kinds of You and Me, Boston-based singer-songwriter Alastair Moock picks up where Thomas left off. Joined by a stellar group of musicians (Rani Arbo of Daisy Mayhem, singer-songwriter Jennifer Kimball, Debbie Lan of Grenadilla, singer-songwriter Samirah Evans and producer Anand Nayak who is also from Daisy Mayhem), Moock gently reminds kids (and adults!) that we should all be free to be who we want to be, without limitations or the borders of stereotypes, and that love is very much a force that drives acceptance. Love of ourselves as well as one another.
Moock is a modern day Woody Guthrie, mixed with a hint of Bob Dylan. You can hear it in his style, in the way he uses music as a guide for justice and most certainly in his clever wit. His gentle voice with its signature rasp lends itself nicely to the Americana sounds of his compositions. Like Dylan, there is poignancy in Moock’s approach but also a deep well of passion for social justice, equality and healing through music.As with poetry, artists can eloquently articulate in music what might seem heavy-handed, too serious or too awkward in the written or spoken word – especially for a young audience.
Through clever repetition, “My Life is a lot Like Yours” speaks from a child’s perspective and illustrates the normalcy of family life with same-sex parents (two moms/two dads), reinforcing that families might look different but they can still be a solid unit and operate in similar ways to those with a mom and dad at the helm.“You Might Be A Girl” stomps on gender stereotypes by articulating the endless possibilities available to girls today; Samirah Evans’ voice adds so much strength to this empowering song. Like it was written for her (and in a way it was), this song tops my daughter Emily’s favorites list.
Taking on topics and conveying them without preaching is delicate. Moock meets the right criteria with poetically intricate lyrics that are impactful, delightful and accessible to a large audience. His 2014 Grammy-nominated album, Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids, for example, gave listeners insight into his ability to address sensitive subjects head on; each song reflects his family’s experiences during the time when his daughter Clio (now in remission!) was diagnosed with leukemia. Moock’s capacity is tremendous.
In “I Am Malala,” Moock sings: “I raise up my voice for an equal chance // To live and learn and grow // to be who I want to be and explore // The things I want to know.” Through these words, he reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for who we believe we are. But through that courage we grow and learn how to make a lasting impact.
As I was listening to this album and thinking about an angle for a review, the seemingly ever-present phrase Live Laugh Love came to mind. While I recognize the beauty in this motivational quote, it’s so overused thatI typically write it off as just another “Hallmark” greeting.
The thing is, the effect is much more meaningful and profound when I think of the words one by one. Each one makes a bold statement, commanding me to remember to hold onto its important value as I move about my day – as a parent and just as me. All Kinds of You and Me offers the same relief. My personal favorite song, “All in a Day (featuring Anand Nayak),” inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s book of the same name, smoothly underscores this sentiment with encouraging words: “...live it well, make it count // fill it up with you // The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now… // See what you can do.”
Whether we directly speak to our children about justice, acceptance and global love, we prominently place a big Live Laugh Love sign in our homes or we let the music do the talking for us, it’s never too early to incorporate the values woven within All Kinds of You and Me. Just like Guthrie and Dylan, and many others who spoke out so freely and took a stand for change and love, Moock proudly joins the ranks, inspiring future generations to do the same “cuz every life’s a kind of prize.”
I was decorating our tree with my daughter Emily the other night and when I heard her singing along with “Frosty the Snowman” it seemed like everything was quiet in that moment. Music is such a significant part of the holiday season and it never goes out of style. This year brings another great bunch of variety to add to your classics. They also make excellent holiday gifts/stocking stuffers! Giving the gift of music is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Enjoy!
Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidayscontains 9 tracks that start from Halloween and end with New Years. What I love most are the combination of musical styles and the creative approach this Virignina-based trio takes towards traditional tunes. In many ways they remind me of They Might Be Giants. “Christmas Brie,” for example, features some punny dialogue around the words “Christmas Tree” and is layered over some Vince Guaraldi-esque jazz. The Peanuts quality of this song goes well with the album cover which also reminds me a bit of scenes from the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. “The Dreidel Song” honors a traditional Chanukah game and “Wenceslas” echoes all the gratitude, love and giving of the season with a memorable story set to the toll of beloved holiday bells. Happy Holidays will help you glide through the last quarter of the year and send you happily sailing into the coming new year.
A huge part of Jewish tradition is centered around music – song, and especially dance. Each one significantly contributes to the practice of traditions and observance. So the fact that Josh and the Jamtones, known for their high energy kindie jams, put out an album that promises to be a “Holiday Xxplosion” (double X for Xtra Large fun!) just makes sense, and is awesome. Though there are plenty of songs for Jewish families out there, the Jamtones bring a hip, cohesive alternative to the fold.Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is a collection of 14 songs in both English and Hebrew. The prayer for peace, “Oseh Shalom” sounds even more on point backed by some equally harmonious reggae rhythm, while the more secular “Amen,” a Bluegrassy/Big Band track encourages gratitude in a bold way. “Amen” is such a joyful song, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself engaged with this song while clapping along. Chanukah specific songs include a rollicking ska-drenched version of “Oh Chanukah” – super danceable for those ready to turn their living room into a mad Horah dance party – and a swingin’ version of “Dreidle.” Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 offers families a one-stop destination ready for a happy set of celebrations throughout the year. We are a family that celebrates both Christmas and Jewish holidays and having an album with popular Jewish songs all in one place has been an especially welcome convenience.
Andrew & Polly– Other Days
Representing the West Coast is the wonderfully warm duo of Andrew & Polly. They are offering up a sweet little gift of 4 songs celebrating tradition and family. As a bonus gift, the duo teamed up with master collaborator Mista Cookie Jar in “L.A. Christmas” which delights with festively mellow sun and sand style. Together they remind us that regardless of whether you’ve got pine trees or palm trees (or are rockin’ a Hawaiian shirt), this is simply the season to fill up on love and just sway together. The beauty of Other Days is that it truly can persist beyond the holiday season. Though half of the songs include holiday specific references, “Thank You for the Box” and “A Mapmaker’s Song” go beyond the boundaries of this time of year, and feature what makes Andrew & Polly so lovable – a little whimsy and a whole lotta charm. Ending with “A Mapmaker’s Song,” families will relate to the sentiment that home truly is where the heart is.
Greg Page, otherwise known as The Yellow Wiggle, has embarked on a solo path with a new production group called Yellow Entertainment and a children’s program called Butterscotch’s Playground (available through DVD ). Just in time for the holidays, Page has produced a holiday album full of original and traditional songs which display vocal chops that easily put him in even footing with some of the holiday’s best crooners. Page’s voice, like Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and even Ol’ Blue Eyes, is full of the same smooth characteristics that have made the aforementioned notables significant voices of the season. Here Comes Christmas! will be nostalgic for adults reminiscing on their own childhood traditions while gleefully making new memories with little ones to reflect back upon when they are grown. Beloved tunes such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” among other favorites found in this collection are why music has become such a staple for invoking the holiday spirit. The arrangements are preserved to the tee for the most part, although “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets wild and wooly as it features guinea pigs, goldfish and puppy dogs with a bonus of goat’s milk (which is made into…well, you’ll have to listen to find out! No holiday spoilers here!). Among the aforementioned albums in this post Here Comes Christmas! is a comforting and familiar place to return to, just like coming in from the cold and being handed a warm mug of cocoa and some freshly baked cookies. This is definitely an album you can just spin while gleefully trimming your Christmas tree. Every now and then you might just catch yourself singing along and then smiling as you look around and see your little ones joining you in the chorus.
Here Comes Christmas! also contains 4 bonus songs from Butterscotch’s Playground and is available from iTunes and the official Butterscotch TV website.
One of the most iconic soundtracks of the season is The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration is truly prized and unforgettable.
Adapted and conducted by Stephen Simon and narrated by Jim Weiss, Maestro Classics presents music (performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra) that tells the story of this enchanting ballet.
This retelling of The Nutcracker is punctuated by the majestic sounds of the ballet in the background. Jim is a master storyteller and his enthusiastic narration will adorn children’s imaginations with lavish scenes full of wonder featuring Clara, her Nutcracker Prince, the battle with the Mouse King, and the dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker will always conjure up feelings of Christmas and this album is truly an excellent gift of the season. Maestro Classics is dedicated to fostering a love of classical music and their storytelling series will help children pair important works with time honored soundtracks, thereby identifying with the music (independent of the story) later on. Combining a story with the music also serves as a great resource for children who may not already be familiar with or who may not prefer classical music or songs without words.
Each CD set comes with an activity booklet which includes bite-sized educational features such as The History of Ballet, a few lines of music for “Overture to The Nutcracker,” information about the Harp, a brief bio of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and some word games. In addition to The Nutcracker, Maestro Classics offers other timeless pieces as part of their Stories in Music series which brings the magic of theater, classical music and storytelling into a very accessible space for families, whether you are listening at home, or traveling in the car.
The following songs are from one of our favorite holiday albums, A Laurie Berkner Christmas, which features a mix of Christmas, Chanukah and seasonal songs. “Candle Chase” has a nice rhythm similar to the beat found in many Jewish songs. Perfect for celebrating around the brilliant glow of your menorah.
Laurie recently came out with a new video for “Children Go Where I send Thee” which also features 2-time Grammy nom Brady Rymer. It’s such an infectious version of this classic song which is featured on an equally heartwarming and upbeat album. You’ll love it. “Children Go Where I Send Thee” is featured on both A Laurie Berkner Christmas andLaurie’s recently releasedLaurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.
Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmashere.
As a native of New Jersey, and a resident of California, the sounds of this song, and seeing Santa give the shaka (aka “hang ten”) sign makes me smile. Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam’s new holiday track, “Summertime Santa” rings with jingle bells and some good ol’ Jersey Rock n’ Roll. So what does Santa do in the summertime? He hangs up his big red winter coat, and heads down the shore to unwind, basking in the glory of all that the boardwalk has to offer. Didner and the crew conjure up some classic Springsteen sounds with this happy holiday number. Check it.
A good blend of original and traditional tunes keeps the music of this season feeling fresh. Each one of the albums and videos mentioned in this post, as well as those from previous years, is guaranteed to fill you up over the coming holi-days!