Songs for the Season Part 1

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Now that we are past Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially underway. Usually, we break out classic holiday CDs while stringing up lights around the house (and on my daughter’s dollhouse) and taking in the scents of our special candles. I’ve always loved the comfort of Ella Fitzgerald and Brenda Lee. Even Frank Sinatra and some instrumental holiday jazz have warmed our hearts on those cold nights. But for the past few years, we’ve added some variety to our music collection as some very talented kindie artists have released holiday albums containing both originals tunes and renditions of the season’s most beloved classics. The suggestions below are based on what we are listening to the most right now and those that we think your family will enjoy just as much. But, this is just the first list! There’s more to come so stay tuned for part 2!

You will find a YouTube playlist corresponding with the list of albums in this post, as well as the sample track “Jingle Bells” from Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas,” at the end of this post. Enjoy!

Laurie Berkner – A Laurie Berkner Christmas
We have been devoted Laurie fans for several years now and getting to hear Laurie’s very first Christmas album,  A Laurie Berkner Christmas, means this holiday season just got a whole lot sweeter. Coupled with her infectious charm, the songs are catchy and ready for some holiday sing-alongs. The album features 15 traditional holiday and seasonal songs, three of which were originally written by Laurie: “Santa’s Coming To My House Tonight,” “Candy Cane Jane,” originally featured on her 2008 release Rocketship Run, and “Christmas Lights.” Joining Laurie on the album is Brady Rymer in the spirited “Children Go Where I Send Thee (below).” Elizabeth Mitchell also joins in on the beautiful, folksy rendition of “Silent Night.”Kids will enjoy wiggling around, kicking their feet and laughing like they’re Santa Claus in “Santa’s Coming to My House Tonight,” spelling along with Laurie in “Jingle Bells” and learning about Gumdrop Joe, Candy Cane Jane and her horse with the candy cane mane in “Candy Cane Jane.”

A Laurie Berkner Christmas is truly delightful and one that should definitely be opened before Christmas. The album and the single “Candle Chase,” recorded especially for those who celebrate Chanukah, is available for purchase and digital download through Berkner’s site, Amazon, and other media outlets.

Renee & Jeremy – Sunny Christmas
Expanding on their 2011 single “Sunny Christmas,” Renee & Jeremy recently released a 6-song EP of the same name just in time for the holidays. Like other recordings from the Los Angeles duo, Sunny Christmas is like comfort food for your soul. The album opens with a sentimental greeting in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and you will instantly want to add your voice to the harmonious vocals and your hands to the rhythmic clapping. The title track, “Sunny Christmas,” is a bouncy pop tune that reminds us that the true gift of the season is spreading peace, love and happiness to those around us. It’s hard not to feel cozy and warm while listening to anything by Renee & Jeremy and Sunny Christmas is certainly no exception. So, as you string up your tinsel and mistletoe or sip a cup of hot cocoa, let Renee & Jeremy fill the room with joy as they wish you and your family good tidings. Sunny Christmas can be sampled and purchased through Renee & Jeremy’s site and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets. And be sure to listen to “Jingle Bells” at the bottom of the post.

Mama Doni – Chanukah Fever
Doni Zasloff, aka Mama Doni has Chanukah FEVER! brings us a quirky compilation of Chanukah songs that is sure to shine like a brightly lit menorah amidst the plethora of Christmas albums on the shelves or maybe even in your living room. Expanding on her 2008 EP, I Love Chanukah, Mama Doni’s Chanukah Fever celebrates the historical and traditional aspects of the holiday through a variety of musical styles, including disco, reggae, rock and ’80s freestyle rap. The 14-song album includes original tracks such as “The Funky Gold Menorah,” “Latke Man” and “La Vida Dreidel.” Even Hanukah Harry gets a personal note. Mama Doni’s songwriting skills and knack for Jewish humor is sure to bring your family to tears with laughter this holiday season.

Chanukah Fever can be sampled and purchased through Mama Doni’s site, Amazon and other media outlets.

Bonus: Mama Doni’s cookbook, Get Cooking, was just released, and it includes some fine family recipes and a 29-song CD. Grab it while it’s hot!

2013 UPDATE: Check out for Mama Doni’s new releases, Mama Doni’s Jewish Holiday Party(DVD) and Mama Doni: The Acoustic Jewish Holiday Collection (CD), available beginning November 12 at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, iTunes, FYE Stores, See of Sound, and directly through Mama Doni’s website. This collection of Chanukah themed songs is set to acoustic and bluegrass sounds creating a warm, sentimental vibe. Highly recommended. See YouTube video playlist below to check out some of these sweet sounds for songs like “A Chanukah Love Song, ‘Eight,'” “Honey This Ain’t Money,” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” which contains Hebrew and English verses.

The Hipwaders – A Kindie Christmas
A Kindie Christmas by Bay Area band The Hipwaders is a holiday classic and offers a unique take on holiday jams. The album features 10 original songs filled with a diverse array of sounds ranging from funk in “It’s Wintertime” to country rock in “Santa’s Train,” which features Santa coming down the tracks in a red hopper car full of toys, and the R.E.M.-like sound of “Wake Up.” Other songs include “Tinsel & Lights,” a nostalgic ode to festive traditions, and “Christmas Vicuna,” a humorous tale about a South American camel who dreams of flying like a reindeer.

A 2010 Honors Award winner from the National Parenting Publication Association (NAPPA), A Kindie Christmas is the perfect alternative to the classic carols of the season and will have your family rockin’ around the Christmas tree and beyond.

A Kindie Christmas can be sampled and purchased through the The Hipwaders’ site (where you can also find local holiday show dates), Amazon and other media outlets.

Dan Zanes – Christmas in Concord
Dan Zanes‘ fans will have another reason to celebrate the upcoming holiday season with the re-release of Christmas in Concord. The mini-album which celebrates the old Christian tunes that have been a part of Christmases in Zanes’ hometown of Concord, NH, for generations also has two new songs which feature Pulitzer Prize winning author Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks brings rich, soulful accompaniment in my favorite song, “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow.” The song was initially performed at a legendary local venue for people in need, known as the Friendly Kitchen. During a road trip, Zanes and Parks wrote “I’m Counting the Days Until Christmas” while reminiscing about their fathers’ experiences in the military. As with most of Zanes’ work, there is a feeling of joy in being surrounded by, creating and sharing music. Christmas in Concord carries the same feeling. Coupled with a nostalgic backstory, a well chosen collaboration and Zanes’ soft rasp, classics like “Joy To the World,” “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night,” are sure to warm your heart as you snuggle and share your own stories with your loved ones. Christmas in Concord can be heard and purchased through Dan Zanes’ official site and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets.

Ben Rudnick – It’s Santa Claus!
It’s Santa Claus! by Ben Rudnick & Friends contains renditions of traditional holiday tunes that don’t stray too far from the sounds of the originals but certainly showcase the group’s signature folksy rock style. The title track, “It’s Santa Claus,” an original on the album, is a bouncy tune that is just as jolly as the man in the red suit.
The album is made up of catchy arrangements filled with the instrumental stylings of the many “Friends” who play along with Rudnick. “Jingle Bells” is jazzy with saxophonic accents, and even “Greensleeves,” a song I obsessively played on the piano in my earlier days, gets a jumpstart with some fast-paced finger picking and accordion before it slows down toward the end.

It’s Santa Claus will provide your family with a fresh festive twist on holiday classics. You can hear samples and purchase It’s Santa Claus! through Rudnick’s site, Amazon and other media outlets. Learn about the inspiration for and the making of the album on Rudnick’s blog.

Holiday Playlist [Courtesy of YouTube]

What We Like: October Playlists

Our home is constantly filled with music.  It keeps us sane and often helps ease us into our days and nights.  We have been listening to alot of great music lately, both old and new, and I thought I would start to share some of it with you on as much as possible.

Additionally, since naptime has become non-existent, we’ve really been trying to take some “quiet time” in the middle of the day.  Music is a major part of making that happen.  Chilled out music = chilled out toddler which = chilled out mommy.

So, this week I am publishing 2 playlists.  The first is called October Fun Part 1 containing lots of fun jams that are useful for really anytime that is not “quiet time,” at least in our house.  The second one is called October Slow Jams which is a bunch of slower songs perfect for anytime of day that calls for a little unwinding (or easing into if you haven’t had your morning pick-me-up yet).

So, without further adieu, I present to you October Fun Part 1 (the first list turned out to be really big so this month might have more than one list) and  October Slow Jams.   You will find a mix of songs both old and new in this playlist.  Also please note that if an artist is not on Spotify, they won’t appear in the playlist.  Feel free to listen to the playlists as they are ordered or on shuffle or both.  Mix it up however you’d like.

I also urge you to visit each of these artists’ websites and either buy or download their music.  You can do that by simply clicking on the links next to each song below.

October Fun Part 1

Fanga Alafia – from Welcome to the Village, Aaron Nigel Smith’s first release with One World Chorus.  Proceeds from the sale of this album will benefit the Cura Orphanage in Kenya, Africa.
Bright Clear Day – Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family (Go Waggaloo)
Afraid of Heights – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Sunshine – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
Eleanor The Elegant Elephant – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
Germs – Ozomatli (OzoKidz)
I Am a Paleontologist – They Might Be Giants (Here Comes Science)
Make Me – Big Bang Boom (Because I Said So!)
Tickle Monster – Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys (Bubble Ride)
Green Beans Everywhere – Hullabaloo (Raise a Ruckus)
The Shark FighterSenorita Mariposa – Mister G (Chocolalala)
Sol Nal – Elena Moon Park (Rabbit Days and Dumplings)
15 tracks, 44 minutes

October Slow Jams

Bare Feet – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Merry -Go-Round – Elizabeth Mitchell (Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie)
Mother Nature’s Son – Aaron Nigel Smith & One World Chorus (Welcome to the Village)
Underneath the Rainbow – Kira Willey (Kings & Queens of the Forest)
Even Bugs Are Sleeping – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
Time To Fly – Hot Peas ‘n Butter (Catchin’ Some Peazzz)
Goodnight Little Arlo (Goodnight Little Darlin’) – Charlie Hope (Keep Hope Machine Running: Songs of Woddy Guthrie)
Powder Blue Reprise – Renee and Jeremy (It’s A Big World)
Listen to the Horses – Raffi (Quiet Time)
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
All the Pretty Little Horses – Laurie Berkner (Whaddya Think of That)
You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles – Lunch Money (Original Friend)
Catch the Moon
 – Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb (For the Kids Too)
Time – Johnny Bregar (My Neighborhood)
Sleep – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
15 tracks, 42 minutes

View this: “Man Gave Names” – Aaron Nigel Smith

Great new video from Aaron Nigel Smith‘s recent release Welcome to the Villagefeaturing the children of One World Chorus and some enthusiastic puppets who each land a role as an animal in the song.  Listeners will be entertained as they hear Laurie Berkner, Lucky Diaz and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo rock out with Aaron and the rest of the children, er I mean animals, to a rendition of Dylan’s “Man Gave Names to all the Animals.”

Enjoy!

[Courtesy of YouTube]

Check This Out: Welcome To The Village – Aaron Nigel Smith

“Welcome, we wish you peace. Welcome to the village, share a song with me.” Those few words speak volumes on Aaron Nigel Smith‘s latest release with One World Chorus, Welcome to the Village, where over 300 children sing renditions of songs from greats like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, The Beatles, Jewel and Louis Armstrong. Incorporating an eclectic mix of reggae, classical, world and american folk music, among others, Welcome to the Village welcomes families into a cultural celebration of love and gratitude for the things we have and the people around us.

Welcome to the Village is Aaron’s first release with the children of One World Chorus, a non-profit organization committed to using music as a mechanism to “build bridges” for children, both in the United States and abroad. Aaron and his wife, Diedre, co-founded the chorus in 2009. Over the course of the last couple of years, Aaron spent time traveling around the U.S. between Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, New York City and all the way to Nairobi, Kenya where 30 kids from the Cura Orphanage participated in the recording of this album. The Cura Orphanage is a special place that offers residency for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. Proceeds from the sale of Welcome to the Village will be donated to the orphanage in hopes of building sustainable music and programming.

Aaron carries an extensive background in music and movement, which began while he studied and performed with The American Boychoir School at age 11. Seeking out his passion and love for music, Aaron along with his wife Deidre, founded FUNdamentals of Music and Movement in 2002. FUNdamentals of Music and Movement serves as a music program for over 100 early education centers nationwide.

As much as it is quite evident that Aaron is a talented musician and songwriter, he has also done an excellent job of selecting songs for Welcome to the Village. On a couple of the songs, Aaron brought in fellow friends and highly acclaimed kindie artists for some sweet collaborations. Starting with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Man Gave Names,” Laurie Berkner, Lucky Diaz and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, each join in as an animal while adding a touch of their personality to the mix. There’s even perhaps a subtle reference to Blue Bear as Lucky sings “…great big furry back with blue hair.” But the real showstopper is when Skidoo jumps in with a quick lyrical jaunt about a Platypus which blew our minds! This strange creature has been of particular interest to my daughter lately. Prior to hearing this song, and in just a few seconds, Skidoo schooled us with way more eloquence than I could have managed. It’s an exciting and well-thought out rendition of this classic, oft covered song.

“Grateful,” one of the originals on the album, features Dan Zanes. The song will warm your heart with Zanes’ Dylan-esque vocals encouraging us to give our “friends a big hug for all that they provide.” It’s oozing with sincerity and appreciation for the people around us, the beauty of the planet we live on and the air we breathe. The song is a prime example of Aaron’s talent to write and compose a deeply meaningful, authentic song.

But the true authenticity in Welcome to the Village is of course, the voices of the children, including Aaron’s duo with his son Zion on the Beatles’ cover of “Mother Nature’s Son.” In fact, it was Zion’s idea to sing the song and include it on the album. There are also traditional African songs which include rhythmic, multi-layered percussion, signature to the sounds of that culture. It’s actually these songs that my 3-year-old likes the best. Starting with “Fanga Alafia,” Em’s absolute favorite and one that she sings on her own even after the album is over. And, when I don’t sing the correct pronunciation (in her opinion) she is quick to correct me. There is also “Che Che Cole,” a fun call and response song to which Em immediately participates as if she’s part of the chorus, while Aaron calls out and the children respond masterfully. The album ends with a traditional choir song called “Siyahamba” which can be translated into a song about unity and peace.

Other notable songs include a slowed down, Dub style rendition of Jewel’s “Hands,” which features the kids from the orphanage. The song fits in nicely with the sentiment behind Welcome to the Village as it was meant to provide hope in the face of misfortune. The song is led by a female soloist whose voice is similar in pitch and tone to Jewel’s. The hauntingly beautiful rendition brings me chills as I hear the innocence and emotion of the children’s voices. There is also the educational “In A Book,” an educational reggae song written by Aaron, featuring his son Zion, as a soloist, along with the kids from the chorus spelling out words. For example: Aaron: “It’s in a book .” Chorus: “That’s right, a b-o-o-k.” Even if your little one can’t quite spell yet, he or she is given the opportunity to learn while singing along with these simple lyrics.

My personal favorite happens to be “Sound the Trumpet” which features Aaron (and a male vocalist from the chorus) flexing his operatic muscles on this short, classic piece. I pretty much just love to roll my r’s along with the guys and pretend I actually am an opera singer.

Welcome to the Village is a true reflection, regardless of age, who, what or where you are, you can experience and participate in the joy of music. Not to mention children love to hear other children sing and Aaron is no stranger to making quality music for families. In addition to being a father of two sons, who both appear on this album (as soloists and part of the chorus), he has received various parenting awards for his first two releases Let’s Pretend and Everyone Loves to Dance. He has also appeared on the PBS Kids Emmy Award winning show Between the Lions and is featured on several new Music for Little People releases, including Buckwheat Zydeco’s Bayou Boogie, and World Travels.

Music is fulfilling, brings people together and is meant to be shared. This is exactly what Aaron and the children of One World Chorus bring with the release of Welcome to the Village. In Aaron’s words, “When kids sing together, I hope that they enjoy sharing the gift of music and learning a valuable discipline that can be used to promote positive change in the world. It’s great to see the light in kids’ eyes as they realize just how many other kids are participating in the project.”

On this album, it literally took a village and then some, to create this special treasure. So kick off your shoes and stay a while; you won’t be disappointed. Ages 2 – 5 will enjoy learning, singing along and participating in the album.

See below for videos related to the making of Welcome to the Village.  You can learn more about and support One World Chorus here, as well as, the Cura Orphanage Home here.

Digital samples and downloads can be found on Amazon. The album is also available for download and purchase on iTunes.

[Courtesy of YouTube]

Disclosure: I received a copy for possible review and was overjoyed to provide my honest opinion regarding the album.