Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Folk Music

As a member of the folklore family, folk music is music that has been transmitted orally and, unlike classical music, was often created by unknown composers. However, there are some folk songs as you will see in the case of Thanksgiving folk songs whose lyrics and music were carefully recorded.

Notice though, that some of the songs were originally hymns and in some cases they were adaptations with no credit given to the 'originator.

Around the 1950's folk music came to define popular music that is based upon traditional folk music. Only now it's heard in concerts, recordings and live broadcasts.

Think Woody Guthrie or Peter, Paul and Mary and you've got the idea.

Anyway, we never sang these songs in our home at Thanksgiving, even though it was my mother's favorite holiday. The first-born American from Rhodes immigrants, she loved all things America!

But in school, we'd gather together on Thursday afternoon in the multi-purpose room to belt out some of the more common Thanksgiving folk songs. I loved them, even though I couldn't (and still can't) carry a tune.

If you are interested in singing Thanksgiving songs with friends and family this Thanksgiving, here's a partial list of songs to consider:

==Turkey in the Straw. Lyrics and music composer(s) unknown.

== Come, Ye Thankful People Come. Sir George J. Elvey (1816-1893), organist at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle wrote the music to the well-loved Thanksgiving hymn about 1844. The lyrics are by Henry Alford (1810-1871).
== To Gramma's House (to the melody of Farmer in the Dell), lyrics unknown.
== Grandma Stuffed the Turkey by Ronald J. Euliano in 1997.
== We Gather Together. 17th century Dutch settlers brought the Prayer of Thanksgiving to the United States where it acquired music based upon a Netherlands folk hymn.

Here are few resources for lyrics and more:
Top Turkey Tunes for Tots
Songs for Teaching

Happy Singing!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DON'T ASK : for mature women only!

I recently spent time with two of my girl friends, Chel and Chris who had never met each other. The plan was for us to have fun and ‘test drive’ the brand new card game DON’T ASK , ($5 + shipping) created by Beverly Mahone, baby boomer expert, radio show host and author. The game was designed for girlfriends who enjoy discussion-lots of discussion-and conversations about circumstances they may or may not find themselves in. The situations are all based upon real life experiences that any mature woman can relate to.

The basic idea is to guess how your friend would respond to a variety of situations, such as problems with neighbors, a friend who wears inappropriate clothes and the bill collector who appears at your door.

According to Mahone, author of Don't Ask and I Won’t Have to Lie the idea for the game came when one evening she and some of her girlfriends “were sitting around talking about what we would do in certain situations.” She realized “that would be a fun game to play."

And she’s right. It is!

Chel, Chris and I sat down to play and kept at it for almost two hours. We got through only seven of the questions. Seven! We must’ve spent anywhere from five to twelve minutes on each question, sometimes revealing our own personal experiences, other times hypothesizing why someone else might answer the question differently.

I came to know more about my friends and their fine characters, and in the non-judgmental environment we discovered that our thoughts and feelings were well-received. Here is where our mundane worlds came together and formed community.

For example, in response to the multiple choice question of what we would do with incessant mistreatment of a neighbor's dog.

We all had the same answer but for different reasons. And we each had an opportunity to share our own experiences with mistreated dogs. That led to a conversation about neighbors who weren't neighborly, animal cruelty and the current condition of animal shelters. That, of course, led to more dialogue about our own history with a variety of pets.

The real genius of the game was that it brought our daily lives into focus where they mattered. What informed our responses to the game questions generated a format for us to get to know one another better.

DON’T ASK is a very well-thought out game.

The only glitch – and it was easily overcome – was that there were two sets of instructions. The rules on the deck itself called for two to four players whereas the promotional one-sheet indicated that need to be one or two teams of two. In the case of an odd-number of players, such as what we had, the book is to be consulted as the surrogate fourth player.

We didn't have the book so we did what any group of thoughtful, creative women do. We easily adapted the rules so that all three of played at all times. Alternately, two would guess how each other would answer and the third would ask the question and provide her own response to the question.

By the end of the evening (remember, we got through only seven questions) we uncovered one more DON’T ASK gem.

In explaining how and why we thought another would reply, we found ourselves celebrating each other's innate wisdom and integrity. And the two who met only that night came away with an appreciation of each other. Said Chris who accurately selected Chel’s answers: “I can see Chel really envisions the big picture and considers how an action will impact others. She has a sensitivity that leads me to believe she would do no harm.”
DON'T ASK is an ideal gift for any mature woman. The three of us are very grateful to Beverly for creating a game that is much more than just party fun!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cowboy Folklore in Prescott

I'm going to Prescott, Arizona this weekend to say my final goodbyes to a very dear friend who died on October 14. He lived for years in this North-Eastern region surrounded by some of the most majestic red rock desert landscapes I have ever seen.

My friend Michael chose an interesting place to live because Prescott in some ways epitomizes the 'wild west.'

As a folk musician whose work crossed over into country western every now and then, he fit right into the rough and rugged terrain.

This sparsely populated state is home to the world's oldest rodeo and is Arizona's first territorial capital. It was founded in 1864, and then incorporated into Arizona in 1881. The city was named for William Hickling Prescott, a noted Arizona historian, according to the city's Office of Tourism.

The city also boasts containing nearly 800 buildings in the National Register of Historic Places. Wow, that's a lot of buildings!

I doubt I will have time to take in the scenery on this trip. But if I did, I'd want to see the local museum's current exhibit. In honor of it's cowboy-ladened past, Prescott's Phippen Museum's displayingWorking the West: Selections from the Phippen Collection is on display through February 20, 2011.

It promises to be a celebration of the working cowboy as seen through the eyes of renowned Western artists who captured this vanishing way of life on the ranches of the American West.

I will definitely keep my eyes open,though for far-flung lassos just in some stray cowboy mistakes my rental car for a steer and tries to rope and brand it!