This month I share “The New Hampshire Traveler”, an old traditional folk dialogue that I learned a long time ago and adapted for Jaffrey, NH. A banjo is my tool of choice when fighting the winter blues. Come join me in the kitchen.
Tom with students at Park School ~ Photo: Jerilyn Willig
Last month I enjoyed participating in Timmy Riordan’s Song Bomb. Timmy invited twenty eight of his friends to each write a song that he would post on his website on each day of February. I expanded upon Timmy’s songwriting exercise to ask if anyone on my mailing list wanted to join me to write a song on the same topic. Happily, I received six songs and a poem, which I posted alongside Timmy’s and my songs in the February Kitchen Musician.
If you haven’t looked at last month’s issue since it was posted, I suggest you revisit it because great songs from Randall Kromm and Ruth Hertzman-Miller were added after the initial publish date.
This Month’s Music
The New Hampshire Traveler
Music: “Arkansas Traveler”, Traditional – Text: Traditional, adapted by Tom Smith
Click the image above to play the video.
I have been thinking lately about the music I used to play every first Friday at The Children’s Museum in Boston back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was just a simple extension of the music I shared with my own children, which in turn was founded upon the music my friends and family shared with me when I was young. Coincidentally, at the school where I work, I had a conversation with Ms. Lucey discussing how our students needed a reminder about manners and treating each other with respect. She had arranged for the student council to do a presentation on this topic and asked if I would help. Naturally, I used some of the music I was thinking about to help deliver the message. Fortunately, my colleague Carole Carter was in the audience with her camera so we can share that presentation with you, my Kitchen Musician friends. I call this “The New Hampshire Traveler” because it takes place in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where I spend a lot of time when I escape busy Boston. The music is “The Arkansas Traveler”, a traditional fiddle/banjo tune I learned as a child. I am sure some of you can recall the childhood lyrics. “I’m bringing home a baby bubble bee. Won’t my mommy be so proud of me”. There are other older lyrics from the 1800’s that resemble the theme of this old folk dialogue, which I adapted for Jaffrey.
On Saturday, March 5th at 3:00 pm I will be doing a family show at Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham, MA. (I hope some of you will join me.) I love family shows when the parents or caregivers are there to enjoy the show with their kids. Although shows for children are somewhat rare for me these days, I used to do many of them before children’s music was a market segment. Back in those days we had something to sing, not something to sell. Given what I earn by doing music now, I suppose you could say that I am still successfully meeting my goal of not selling my music. (grin)
My approach to family shows remains decidedly old fashioned. I don’t have any fancy costumes, electric lights or stage sets. As one parent suggested, “Tom is just an old guy with his banjo, guitar and other instruments sharing songs and stories he learned from a life of enjoying music” – guilty. But I am fiercely enthusiastic about the value of shared self-made music, whether that be with children or adults. The times I have shared intimate space with singers and storytellers are among my most treasured memories. In this world of interwebs, plastics, precision and over-processed media, self-made music stands out as the organic alternative. “Organic” does seem to be the right word for it. As it pertains to art, it has been defined “of or pertaining to the shapes or forms in a work of art that are of irregular contour and seem to resemble or suggest forms found in nature.” I have come to love those “irregular contours” of self-made music and spoken word.
The culture we share with our children becomes part of their physical and metaphysical foundation and can be called upon during a lifetime of combat with the inorganic world. For example, I was heartened to read that after being shot in Tucson last month, Gabriel Giffords recovery is progressing well. I was intrigued that music therapy is playing an important part in her recorvery. According to The Telegraph, “Remarkably, a nursery rhyme that generations of parents have sung to their children to lull them to sleep has played a key role in bringing her back to life as she learns to talk and, eventually, walk again.” This therapy has progressed from “Twinkle Twinkle LIttle Star” to jazz and rock classics. It reminded me of sitting at the bedside of my brain injured mother-in-law shortly before she died. Her caregivers told us that she could not speak and could only lie in silence. They couldn’t tell if she could hear or understand speech. While sitting around her bedside, her family read The 23rd Psalm aloud, and to our amazement my mother-in-law joined in – speaking every word as clearly as we who were reading from the Book of Common Prayer.
Whatever our culture, when we share it with our children through music and spoken word, we give them a great gift.
I leave you with this delightful video of old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell playing “The Arkansas Traveler”, discussing his venture into the moonshine business, and playing for a flat-foot dancer. Oh, to be sitting in one of those chairs beside him.
Click to view the Tommy Jarrell video.
Wishing you the joy of music making and story telling,
(I invite you to leave a comment. Just scroll down to the end of this page.)
March 5, Saturday, 3:00 pm, Framingham, MA Help me celebrate my birthday at a family show at Amazing Things Arts Center. Bring the kids and the kid in you. Contact me for special pre-concert pricing. HALF-PRICE! Click for show details.
March 7, Monday, 8:00 pm, Concord, MA I rejoin the Chadbourne Chanticleers for what has become an annual Saint Patrick’s feature at Ellen Schmidt’s open mike at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts. Kate Chadbourne generously shares the stage with Pat Kenneally, Robert Phillipps, Bill Kehoe, Linda Abrams and me as we bring some of our favorite Irish musical fare. Always a treat.
March 17, Thursday, 7:00 – 10:00 pm, Concord, MA Saint Patrick’s Day at Main Streets Market in historic downtown Concord, MA with the Chadbourne Chanticleers. A great menu, “Irish beverages”, and my loosely knit group of musician friends sharing a round robin of Irish music (often collaborating). You can’t get much closer to the musicians than this.
April 16, Saturday, 1:00 – 1:50 pm, Mansfield, MA I return to the New England Folk Festival to share a set with good friends Peter Fischman and Deb O’Hanlon. Our program is entitled Tongue In Cheek – songs of humor and hubris. This will be a lot of fun.
Click to view all upcoming shows.
Featured (Non)-Profit: Music Together
This month I depart from my usual non-profit endorsement. Music Together is a for-profit organization that is committed to bringing families, caregivers and their children together with music and movement.
“Central to the Music Together approach is that young children learn best from the powerful role model of parents/caregivers who are actively making music. The program brings families together by providing a rich musical environment in the classroom and by facilitating family participation in spontaneous musical activity at home within the context of daily life.”
Music Together is an international organization, so there is likely to be a Music Together teacher near you. Click here to find one. Several of my friends from the Children’s Music Network are certified Music Together facilitators. For example, if you are in the southern New Hampshire area, check out the very talented Amy Conley. Amy has taught me a number of great songs for children.
Although Music Together is a for-profit organization, they are involved in outreach programs to serve families who might not otherwise be able to experience Music Together. Here is a wonderful video showing an inter-generational outreach program in Florida.
If you have a non-profit to suggest for an upcoming issue of The Kitchen Musician please send me an e-mail.