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Children's Songs is an anthology of simple tunes with which children are likely to be familiar. Perhaps more importantly, these are also songs which children enjoy singing. There are a number of songs contained in other volumes of the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog which are frequently sung by children. This volume, however, is devoted exclusively to children's favorites. The selections are given in the approximate order in which children are likely to learn them as they are growing up (hence the first three are lullabies). Like the songs themselves, most of the arrangements are relatively simple. This is by design, since the simpler the arrangement, the likelier it is that children will be able to use these scores. In the .tef and CD formats, many of the tempos have been deliberately slowed, again to make this music more accessible to younger players.
Eight of the arrangements contained in this volume are in three parts (all the odd-numbered selections from the first through the fifteenth). The other ten arrangements are in four parts. Curiously, despite the relative simplicity of these songs, eight of them (including the last four, and five of the last six) employ compound meter. The disadvantage in this is the fact that the notation for music which employs compound meter is more complicated in appearance than for music which employs simple meter. The advantage in this, however, and it is a significant advantage, is the fact that these songs are well known by practically everyone. This greatly simplifies the matter of learning to read and play music which employs compound meter. It is considerably easier to decipher the notation for music that you already know than for music that you do not know. This volume, then, has an important secondary function, in that it provides an excellent opportunity to master the specifics of compound meter notation.
The first three selections are all lullabies, or songs used to lull young children to sleep, and are all arranged in a somewhat Classical-sounding style. The arrangement for "Mockingbird" employs damped notes, and has the feel of 18th century court dance music. Notice that the four measure melody is sounded three times, each time with a different harmonization. "Rockabye Baby" and "Brahms' Lullaby" are both arranged in a fairly busy legato style which suits the purpose of the music well. "Happy Birthday", for obvious reasons, is one of the first songs children learn to sing. It is given here in an arrangement which, like the arrangement for "Mockingbird", sounds like Baroque dance music. "Pop Goes The Weasel", that old Jack-in-the-Box favorite, is given in a straightforward legato arrangement which downplays the musical shock value of Jack's grand entrance. Notice the interesting effect created by the passage in which all three parts sound in rhythmic unison.
As with many of the songs included in this anthology, the arrangement for "The Mulberry Bush", otherwise and more recently known as "This Is The Way We Wash Our Hands", is in two distinct sections. In the first section, the three harmony parts imitate the sound of a strummed chord accompaniment to the melody. In the second section, all four parts sound in rhythmic unison, which has a noticeably different effect. A similar two-section scheme was used for the arrangement for "The Eensy Weensy Spider". In the second section of that arrangement, however, only the interior part sounds in rhythmic unison with the melody, while the bass part mimics the movements (up the spout, down the spout, and up the spout again) of the spider. "The Alphabet Song" is given in a simple block chord arrangement, with all the parts sounding in rhythmic unison throughout. A two-section scheme is again used for the arrangement for "Mary Had A Little Lamb". In the first section the two accompaniment parts sound a drone-like harmony against the melody. The second section is considerably more formal and more Classical sounding.
In the first section of the arrangement for "London Bridge", the two interior parts are drone-like, and sound above a syncopated bass line. All three harmony parts are more rhythmically active in the second section, which is structured above a constantly moving (and less syncopated) bass line. The arrangement for "If You're Happy" is characterized by a wide variety of rhythmic patterns, and includes damped notes, legato passages, and a syncopated cadence. "This Old Man" is given here in a challenging arrangement that captures the energy of this delightful song, and that employs the guitar ensemble format to particularly good advantage. Notice the dramatic effect achieved in the passage in which all four parts sound a unison in octaves. The arrangement for "A Lady Who Swallowed A Spider" is a duet between the melody and the interior part, with the bass part playing a secondary supporting role. This incomplete arrangement for this rather lengthy song covers only the first three critters swallowed (a fly, a spider, and a bird). Other verses, and other critters, can be added at will. Just remember that after the lady swallowed the horse, she died, of course.
The arrangement for "Ten In A Bed" is another incomplete account of a rather lengthy song. Only the first three verses are given here (ten in a bed, nine in a bed, and eight in a bed). Other verses can be added by shortening the cadence figure each time around. Notice the development of a harmonized counter melody (please remember to tie a knot in your pajamas) in the two interior parts. "I've Been Working On The Railroad" has probably largely fallen out of favor with American children over the past several decades. It has been included here nevertheless, in an appropriately sing-songy arrangement, because it is such an enjoyable song to sing and play, and because I have fond memories of singing this song on the school bus when I was a child.
The last three selections are all Christmastime favorites, and are all governed by compound meter. The arrangement for "Frosty The Snowman" is the simplest of the three, since the use of compound meter is confined to the melody only (in the other three parts, notes are sounded only on the main beats). You might want to don sunglasses and a beret to play "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer", which is given here in a funky jazz-style arrangement. Once you've mastered the bass line in this arrangement, which by the way is incredibly fun to play and therefore well worth the effort, you will never again be intimidated by the notation for compound meter. The volume concludes with "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", which is given here in an old-fashioned sounding arrangement in which compound rhythms are used, in various combinations, in all four parts.
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