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Music For Little Fingers

Songs For Children & Piano Pedagogy, page 2

This is a continuation of Our June, 2003 Issue of songs for children to learn from and play, if you missed page one, check the link at the end of this page or use this link.




The Pixies' Goodnight Song

1906

 


Music by: Arthur A. Brown, Op. 32, No. 10
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: Gordon Livingston

 

I guess Mr. Brown should have called this something other than a song since it is a piano solo piece but like Mendelssohn, who wrote a number of "songs without words," the composer has given us a very, very lyrical and enjoyable piece of music that a child known to us today only as "Grant," who signed his name on the inside practiced and learned many long years ago. . It is clear that Grant and his piano teacher labored long and hard over this piece for the music is filled with penciled in marks, fingerings, comments and directions from beginning to end. Grant even attributed certain passages to people he presumably knew. Mrs. Futrell, Miss Ray, Uncle Park and a mysterious M.H.G. All were honored with musical phrases that Grant must have felt were reflective of them. Grant even noted his payments for the sheet music in two installments, one of 35 cents on Wednesday and the final 15 cents sometime afterward, it's illegible, written along the margin. It is interesting to note that most sheet music at the turn of the 20th century sold for 50 cents, a dear price for those times. To put that into perspective, the average income in 1906 was under $500 per year compared to over $42,000 in 2000. The cost to mail a letter was 2 cents and the Federal budget was only 570 million dollars. The cost of sheet music represented a big sacrifice for many families of the period.

 

This work is really quite nice and introduces a number of techniques to the student. Cross hand playing and pedaling play a prominent role in the piece as does phrasing and expression. A flowing and dreamy melody makes the piece entertaining and very pleasant to listen to. A bit more complex than many of the songs we've looked at so far, this work would have taken Grant a fair amount of time to master. From the teaching notes on the sheet music, it is clear that Grant's teacher had very high expectations for phrasing and expression.

 

Arthur A. Brown, the composer was born in 1877 and died in 1954. His best known composition is Glad Light and that is the sum total of information I've been able to find about him.

 

Listen to and see this 1906 children's waltz Printable score! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (No lyrics, piano only)

 


 


Three Jolly Sailors

1907


Music by: Paul Lawson
Lyrics by: Lawson
Cover artist: Unsigned


The Etude Magazine was an important part of the American musical scene from 1883 until 1954 when the Theodore Presser Company discontinued it. For more information about Etude and other music magazines, see our May, 2001 feature about music magazines. Each issue of Etude offered several piano pieces, many of which were for beginners or differing levels of study. Many were also for the highly accomplished pianist. Some of the works were from prominent composers, many were not. The magazine offered a venue for emerging composers to get their works published and tried out by the public. The works were carefully selected and represented solid composition and teaching objectives. In addition, the Etude had many interesting articles about piano pedagogy and forums for discussion of piano teaching concepts and activities. This issue of Etude carried a very interesting essay by Robert D. Brain, a musician and novelist from Ohio titled They of Little Talent where he discussed the fact that most music students were ungifted and as such, music teachers needed to adjust their methods to help those students by "devising means of reaching the comprehension of these pupils." Though Brain was quite uncharitable in his characterization of these students as having:

" slight musical feeling and incorrect musical hearing, who play wrong notes without noticing them and have small sense of rhythm. Pupils who seem hopelessly destitute of the mechanical lack of acquiring even slight technic on an instrument and are without sense of musical pitch or rhythm. "The poor ye have with thee always" says Holy writ. The music teacher would paraphrase this, "the untalented ye have with you always."

So, that is how you teachers speak of us, the untalented masses? Ouch! Well, regardless of the painful truth of those lines, Brain does offer many good solutions and questions the methods of those teachers who treat all students the same. He exhorts teachers to adapt their methods to help the untalented by providing lessons within the scope of their ability. He correctly concludes that using the same high standards on all students regardless of talent can discourage and hinder progress. He concludes with another bitter truth;
" As soon as teachers realize that the principal part of their life work is in training the mentally dull in music and spend time in devising special ways of working with these pupils, so soon will the cause of music in America advance with great leaps and bounds."

 

This issue of Etude had many good works in it and included this excellent teaching piece that uses staccato passages, expression and provides Da Capo and Coda markings for the student to learn. With a very short passage with lyrics, the song is really quite clever and fun. I'm sure that many students enjoyed it but those of us who were mentally dull in music probably had a very hard time of it. The composer of the piece, Paul Lawson may have been an amateur composer or an accomplished professional. Unfortunately, I've been unable to locate any information about him.

 


Hear and see this early song Printable sheet music! (Scorch format only)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 


 

Waltz of the Flower Fairies

1909



Music by: Marie Crosby
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: Lyle Justis


The Presser Company of course printed much more than just the Etude Magazine. Without question, Presser was one of the most influential and prominent music publishers in America and is the oldest continuing music publisher in the United States. They've an interesting history and if you are interested, you can read it here. According to their website, Presser himself was a philanthropist in the cause of music education and as a result, their catalog has always contained plenty of educational pieces. That is reflected in the fact that many of the works we've featured this month were published by Presser.

 

Perhaps in 1909, little Sally Brown Hale (name signed on the cover) placed the sheet music for this work on her piano, looked it over, took a deep breath and started playing. No doubt, her piano teacher was leaning over her shoulder, offering plenty of coaching. The sheet music is densely noted with directions for playing and uncannily, just like Grant's marks in the Pixie's song above, passages are named for certain people. Even more startling is that some of the names are the same! Perhaps Sally and Grant were brother and sister for Mrs. Futrell appears again on this sheet. Other passages are marked "Daddy," "Mother," "Emily," "Bill" and "Mammy." Fingerings, keys and note names as well as expression marks added by the teacher make this a well used and carefully studied piece. This work is part of a set of seven "lively pieces" by Crosby. It's a very enjoyable work.

 

Like so many composers of the period, and especially women composers, Marie Crosby is an enigma. I'm unable to find any information about her or her other possible publications.

 


Hear this great old waltz for kids Printable score! (Scorch format)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this work)

 



My Fair Lady

1919



Music by: George L. Spaulding
Lyrics by: Old English Rhyme
Cover artist: Unknown

 

Perhaps one of the best know nursery rhymes in history, My Fair Lady or London Bridge is as ubiquitous as any song on earth. Originally appearing possibly as early as 1014 as a result of a "large force of Anglo-Saxons and Norwegian Vikings sailed up the Thames to attack London. The Danes lined London Bridge and showered the attackers with spears. Undaunted, the attackers pulled the roofs off nearby houses and held them over their heads in the boats. Thus protected, they were able to get close enough to the bridge to attach ropes to the piers and pull the bridge down. There is some speculation that the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down stems from this incident." (http://www.britainexpress.com/London/anglo-saxon-london.htm) Regardless of the origins, I've found that there are many different iterations of the lyrics, probably revised over time to suit certain situations. Fortunately, all at least share the line "London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady" and the melody seems to have stayed intact for at least recent decades.

 

On that simple line, George L. Spaulding submitted to Etude magazine in 1919 "A good little study in the parallel major and minor keys" for grade 2½. The majority of the study is focused on some variations of the basic melody. The work begins with a marvelously upbeat and tuneful introduction of 16 bars in G before we get to the basic tune as we all know it. The melody is then followed by two variations, the first in G minor which is repeated twice and then we modulate back to the home key of G and repeat the variations. Short, sweet and to the point, Spaulding created a very nice and original work from a very tired and well worn melody.

 


Listen to and see this timeless song Printable sheet music! (Scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 


Little Betty Blue

1920



Music by: Rob Roy Perry
Lyrics by: None, piano solo
Cover artist: unsigned

 

Clearly, somewhere along the way in gathering up my collection, I've obtained a group of sheet music from an entire family for now, with a work some ten years later, we now have Sally S. Hale, learning a piece from a series by Rob Roy Peery and published by Presser. This particular piece is listed as "A Legato Study." For those of you unfamiliar with that phrase, legato playing is the smooth and flowing playing of the notes with little or no "space" between notes, where each note is sounded for its full value. Compare that to staccato where the notes are played short and detached from one another. Legato playing is an important part of musical expression and so an exercise that allows the student to practice this expressive skill is necessary.

 

Though this work has no lyrics, Peery, has included the Mother Goose rhyme (Hence the title for the collection) on which he based the title;

Little Betty Blue
Lost her holiday shoe.
What can little Betty do?
Why, give her another
To match the other,
And then she may walk in two.

Using a melody based on simple scales that allows the student to focus more on the legato technique than having to worry about a complex melody, Peery has created a very nice and, in spite of the scalar construction, a tuneful exercise that I'm sure many a student enjoyed learning. By 1920, the Hales must have found a new piano teacher for though there are a few penciled in markings, the sheet music markings are no where near as detailed.

 

Rob Roy Peery (b. 1900 Saga, Japan,) Peery's parents were missionaries in Japan when he was born. They moved to Denver in 1903 and then to Atcheson Kansas. A graduate of Midland College, Peery taught in Omaha, Hickory, NC and studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. In 1931, Peery became the principal music critic for the Theodore Presser Company in Philadelphia. Peery wrote a number of works including Byrd (O God Creator, in Whose Hand). Peery also arranged a compilation of melodies from the masters for Presser in 1941 titled Once Upon A Time Stories of the Great Music Masters For Young Pianists Containing Thirty-six Favorite Compositions From Twelve Master Composers Made Easy To Play For Piano. The title itself is a production! He also arranged other works by classical masters for voice, organ and piano duets including an unusual choral transcription of Tchaikovsky's Waltz from Serenade for Strings. As well, Perry arranged a number of liturgical and gospel works which are still in use today. I've been unable to determine Peery's current status, whether still alive at 103 or his death date and place if he is not still alive..

 


Hear this great old song
(Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (None, piano only)

 




Got To Practice

1917



Music by: Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Lyrics by: Bond
Cover artist: Unknown


For our last work this month I've included one that is not really for children but epitomizes the pain and suffering inflicted on all piano (and other instrument) students since Broadwood first invented this device of infinite torture. Carrie Jacobs-Bond wrote some of America's greatest tunes, most of which were beautifully touching and deeply moving. She also had one of the greatest senses of humor of our native composers and wrote some songs that are full of mirth and joy. She knew how to capture the truth of many of life's trials and tribulations and often found musical ways to make life much easier to take. For more about her incredible life story, see our special biography of Carrie Jacobs-Bond. We've featured many of her works over the years.

 

This delightful song captures the spirit of a child faced with the prospect of practicing the piano and the feelings that children often express to us when we exercise our parental duties and "make them" do what needs to be done. Every child who has ever taken music lessons knows what is coming when its time to practice; mother's (or father's) admonitions and exhortations to get up on the bench and practice ..or else! Bond has given us a wonderfully funny and creative piece that captures the spirit of this eternal conflict between parent and child. The lyrics are humorous and the music is precious. Between verses, Bond has inserted little vignettes simulating practice sessions by the child and the ending, marked, "play in the style of an imperfectly learned exercise" is an absolute stroke of compositional genius. In this one work, Bond has not only told a story but perfectly illustrated it with music to create a slice of life vignette that is unforgettable. That final "imperfectly learned" section was perhaps the best and easiest part for me for if you were to ask my violin teacher, my one perfection in music is my ability to play imperfectly.

 



Enjoy this great Bond song (scorch)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 


 

That completes our issue about songs for children. Come back next month (July, 2003) for our feature on songs ABOUT children.

 

A number of sources are used each month to research our features. In most cases websites used and other sources not in our library will be noted and linked to. In text citations refer to resources within our library, see our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

If you missed page one, or want to return to it, click here to go to page one



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