Connecting through stories: Sharing Holiday Traditions

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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

Holiday Music 2015 – Albums, Videos and Songs

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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!

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Rocknoceros
– Happy Holidays

Rocknoceros comes forth with a rock solid collection of holiday jams. Happy Holidays contains 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.

Happy Holidays is available through Rocknoceros’ official store.


joshandthejamtones5Josh and the Jamtones – Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 Holiday Xxplosion!

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.

Jammin’ with Jew!, Volume 2 is available through iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.


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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.

Other Days is available through Andrew & Polly’s online store, and  iTunes.


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Greg Page – Here Comes Christmas!

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.



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Maestro Classics
 – The Nutcracker 

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.

You can purchase this set, along with other fabulous classical music collections at the Maestro Classics official site.



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A Laurie Berkner Christmas

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 and Laurie’s recently released Laurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs.

Read my previous review of A Laurie Berkner Christmas here.

For posts from previous years featuring our favorites, check out Songs for the Season – Part 1, Songs for the Season – Part 2, Untangling the Christmas Lights – Brady Rymer, Santa Flying in your Sleigh – Todd McHatton.


 

SONGS

8CeH48N2iDd2Oo2QnipzeeZolrhJUOuq4-KGgWtfwWUJason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam – “Summertime Santa”

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.

“Summertime Santa” was produced by Marc “Baze” Bazerman (from Baze and His Silly Friends), and is available for download via CD BabyiTunesBandCampJungleGymJam.com


 

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!

Stay tuned for the addition of holiday songs!

Fresh Press Digest 002 – Laurie Berkner partners with Simon & Schuster, Lisa Loeb’s new album with Amazon, and a Mighty Mo Productions debut

Hello Everybody! Welcome back to the Kids Can Groove Fresh Press Digest!

Edition 002 is full of new and exciting news.

unnamedLaurie Berkner & Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers to Publish Three Picture Books

This is a HUGE announcement! Laurie Berkner will publish three picture books with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Starting in Spring 2017, Berkner will release the first book based on one of her most popular songs, We Are the DinosaursShortly thereafter, Pillowland, a gorgeous lullaby destined to become a beloved bedtime book, is due out in Fall 2017 and will be illustrated by Camille Garoche. Monster Boogie, a hit at Berkner’s live shows, is scheduled for Summer 2018, also to be illustrated by Ben Blanton.

Laurie Berkner, as many of you may know was a former preschool music teacher and indie rocker. Her latest album, Laurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs, hits stores this month (October 23, 2015!). The album includes 51 well-loved, traditional children’s songs, plus 6 bonus tracks of popular Laurie Berkner originals. Click on the album link in this post for more info.

“It is no wonder that Laurie is beloved by children and adored by parents,” says Christian Trimmer, executive editor, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “Her songs, besides being incredibly catchy, are crafted with the utmost care and respect for her audience. She understands what kids, parents, and educators want and need. On top of that, she’s just really cool. I’m very excited to be making books with her.”

“I could not be more thrilled about my collaboration with Simon & Schuster,” says Laurie Berkner. “I’ve always imagined my songs being made into picture books. Now Ben’s and Camille’s stunning talents will bring them to life in ways I can only dream of! Their talent and Simon & Schuster’s expertise (with the gifted Christian Trimmer at the helm) is the perfect combination to help me create many wonderful books to share with my fans.”


516KOzNrsUL._SS280_PJStripe-Robin,TopLeft,0,0Lisa Loeb’s Nursery Rhyme Parade is available through Amazon Music! 

Lisa Loeb’s fourth children’s album, Nursery Rhyme Parade! is now being offered exclusively to Amazon Prime members through Amazon Music HERE. This album is also one of two children’s albums to debut on Amazon Music this fall. Loeb’s new recording will be available in both digital format and as a CD package, available on-demand.

Nursery Rhyme Parade is chock full of familiar nurser rhymes and songs  – 35 to be exact! – perfect for building a musical foundation for teeny tiny and toddling ones. Songs on the album include guest artists such as singer-songwriter Renee Stahl of Renee & Jeremy and Renee & Friends, with children’s voices rounding out the joyful tome of the album. Acclaimed children’s book and magazine illustrator Ekaterina Trukhan created the bright animal art for the album.

Many of you may recall from her hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. Her music career has stayed strong in both adult and family genres while also designing Lisa Loeb Eyewear, writing children’s books, and supporting non-profit causes. The Los Angeles based mother of two is well known to parents and kids for her albums Catch the Moon (with Elizabeth Mitchell) and Camp Lisa (with sales benefiting the Camp Lisa Foundation). She published her second picture book-CD for Sterling Children’s Books: Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’, in 2013. Lisa recently collaborated to co-write the children’s musical “Camp Kappawanna,” which debuted at New York City’s Atlantic Theater Company.


6PAN1T-C PSDNew Kindie lablel, Mighty Mo Productions, releases debut compilation featuring award-winning artists.

On October 16, 2015 Mighty Mo Productions released its first album called Smiles Ahead. The compilation is filled with award-winning artists like Grammy winners The Okee Dokee Brothers, Grammy nominees The Pop Ups and Secret Agent 23 SkidooBrady Rymer and The Verve Pipe, Billboard Top 100 artist Rissi Palmer, and multi-award-winning artists like Frances England, Kira Willey, Grenadilla, Johnny BregarMista Cookie Jar, Caspar Babypants and a debut artist, Katydid.

Smiles Ahead can be purchased through the label’s site, Amazon,  and iTunes.

Check out previously published interviews and videos with featured artists Frances England and Rissi Palmer.

Video: “The Cat Came Back” – Laurie Berkner

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“The Cat Came Back” is one of the classics we’ve listened to from Laurie Berkner since Emily was little. I am thrilled to see Laurie’s new video for it, which was made through YouTube Spaces.

Ok so there’s a cat in it, and it’s cute. But what I also love about this video is Laurie’s charm. Her vibrant personality lights it all up, right along with the mustaches, and the cat ears. It’s just a feel good experience and it’s exactly why Laurie has been such a staple in our home!

Without further ado, from the recently released Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection, here is “The Cat Came Back!”

Want to play along with Laurie? If you are in the New York City area, the next Laurie Berkner’s The Music in Me Teacher Training will be held August 28-31. Learn Laurie’s classroom philosophy and teaching style, 40+ Laurie Berkner songs, and get tools to begin your The Music in Me classes or supplement your current music classes. Learn more or enroll today!

Tune in: Happy Halloween playlist that will lift your spirits!

FullSizeRenderAs the days creep closer and closer to Halloween, we are firing up our playlist and enjoying not-so-terrifying tunes as we parade around in our costumes and finish decorating our jack-o-lanterns.

Below the Spotify playlist you will also find a new video by Todd McHatton and a groovy new song from Charity and the Jam Band called “Halloween” delivering the most essential reminder: No matter what you’re gonna be for Halloween, you can still dance in your costume!

Enjoy!

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If you like what you hear, please consider supporting these artists by purchasing/downloading these songs through the links below. Please note that these links are also affiliate links which help support this blog.

Monsters” by Jazzy Ash (from Home)

Monster Boogie” by Laurie Berkner (from Buzz Buzz and The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band)

“Dance LIke A Monster” by Play Date (from Imagination)

“Costume Party” by The Pop Ups (from Appetite for Construction)

“Them Bones (feat. Outtasite)” by Caspar Babypants (from Sing Along!)

“Always Be A Unicorn” by Helen Austin (from Always Be A Unicorn)

“Every Little Monster” by Todd McHatton (from Super Audio Sunshine)

“Gettin’ Down On Halloween” by Boxtop Jenkins (fromYou’re Happier When You’re Happy)

“Three Little Pumpkins” by Little Miss Ann (from Follow Me)

“Five Little Pumpkins” by Raffi (from Singable Songs for the Very Young)

“Scared Scare Crow” by Caspar Babypants (from Hot Dog!)

“Where Do Monsters Go?” by Ratboy Jr. (from Champions of the Universe)

“Confusing Costume” by Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights (from Good Egg)

“I’m Not Afraid Anymore” by Papa Crow (from Things That Roar)

Want more Halloween fun, check out the Halloween Digest featuring videos by The Hipwaders, Mista Cookie Jar and Play Date and a fun Halloween word activity!

Check this out: Just Say Hi! – Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could

Just Say Hi cover
Get those boogie shoes ready everybody! Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Just Say Hi!, the latest release from Brady Rymer And The Little Band That Could, keeps the sweet sounds of rock n’ roll alive with a spirited set of what might be Rymer’s most personal songs to date. And by spirited, I mean full-on no stoppin’ this boppin’ blazing train of good times. Like the famous rock n’ roll icons of yesteryears (Springsteen, Mellencamp, Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles), Rymer has rhythm and blues running through his veins. Collectively, this talented troupe makes each song sound like a celebration.

Music, specifically rock n’ roll, has played a major role in Rymer’s upbringing and he directly pays tribute to this genre in many of his songs, whether he’s singing about being raised on rock n’ roll music, playing “Stairway to Heaven” in his garage after school, or learning a piano rag with Grandma Helen. The joy of being with family and friends is interwoven throughout the album as well. “Get This Party Started,” cruises down memory lane with a young Rymer listening to Elvis in the backseat of his parents’ Oldsmobile, to the present day where a glance in the rear view mirror reveals his own children hoppin’ and boppin’ in the backseat to Beyoncè’s Single Ladies song.

Nominated for a Grammy in 2009, Rymer has always been able to connect to the emotional side of his audience, empathetically trying to relate to what they might be feeling and then seeking to uplift their spirits through empowering messages and words of kindness. Just Say Hi! is bookended by two songs that support these messages. Starting with the title track, Rymer encourages kids to just say hi (even if they are uncomfortable, i.e. being a new kid in school). as a way to start building friendships while the last track, “Light of Love,” encourages listeners to connect with each other through the simple act of smiling at one another: Everywhere you go and everything you do/ Every single person that you run into/ Give ‘em a smile big & bright/ And shine your little light of love.

Just Say Hi! offers many opportunities for you to shake, rattle and roll. The songs we are spinning the most right now are the breezy, “I Spin” and “Getting Your Ya-Ya’s Out,” the perfect answer to burning off a sugar rush. Although, you might want to listen to the former before the latter. Despite it’s action-oriented name, “I Spin,” is a slower number that will help everyone begin to wind down.

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Brady with Moppit the monster.

Other standout tracks include “Home,” a rhythmic dance song infused with comforting images that reinforce the saying “Home is where the heart is,” and “Tomorrow’s People,” a reggae tune featuring a supergroup of kindie musicians. Reminiscent of “We Are The World,” the voices of Laurie Berkner and Susie Lampert (The Laurie Berkner Band), Elizabeth Mitchell and her husband Daniel Little (You Are My Flower), and Drew Holloway and Jack Forman (Recess Monkey) highlight the power of music to effect change, as well as offer hope and gratitude.

Rymer is a glowing light within the children’s genre. While there has always been a charismatic sound to his music, Just Say Hi! seems to take a more unfettered approach, providing insight into Rymer as an individual and a musician. Each song is delivered with fervency and infectious enthusiasm, or, as my 5-year-old said, “Brady sings his songs with a heart full of joy.” That just about sums it up! There is positively no way your family won’t be moved by the soul and sincerity found within this album.

Just Say Hi! is available at Amazon and iTunes. Connect with Brady via Facebook and Twitter and make sure to check his official site for tour dates. A special nod also goes to Katie Gastley for the artwork on the album and creation of Moppit the friendly blue monster you see in the photos above.

 

Singled out: “Untangling the Christmas Lights” – Brady Rymer

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Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner and Grammy nominee, Brady Rymer, delivers the perfect song to officially kick off the holiday season. “Untangling the Christmas Lights,” with its Rock n’ Roll rootsy sound, is a great song that many will surely relate to. And check out the beautiful artwork (above) that goes with it.  The vintage style of the colors and the layout of the images adds a warm, cozy feeling to an otherwise uncomfortable situation.

I love Brady’s commentary on the idea for the song:

“Every Christmas it’s the same… I lug out the boxes of Christmas tree lights thinking that I finally got smart last year and packed them up carefully, in a way that would make it easy to trim the tree. But, of course, once I open the box and get to trimmin’, it’s a chaotic, knotted, spaghetti of a mess! How’d it get this way? What have they been up to in that box all year long?”

I couldn’t agree more! Every year I tell myself ‘this time will be different,’ as I approach the box labeled “Xmas.” Proceeding with caution, I reach in, ready to delicately slip the lights right out of their cardboard cocoon and begin the tangle-free unfolding only to find my efforts squashed by a tangled web. How does that happen? I suppose unlocking this mystery might also solve the mystery of how socks get lost in the dryer. In the meantime, it’s good to have a friend to relate to! Thanks, Brady!

Brady is also featured on  A Laurie Berkner Christmas where he adds his warm voice to the wonderful sounds of “Children Go Where I Send Thee.”  Brady has been a big part of our rotation for several years now.  Not only is Brady a great musician but he also writes and performs for good causes.  His release Love Me For Who I Am, an album inspired by children affected by autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and related disorders, earned him Gold awards from the Parents’ Choice Foundation and NAPPA.  Proceeds from the album are donated to Autism Speaks.

Check out my review of Brady’s 2014 release Just Say Hi, as well as some of his other works at his official site.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Dec 5, 2012 but because of how relevant it still is and will continue to be, I am declaring it a seasonal favorite!