Summer Camp Week 3: Je Suis une Pizza

For today I offer a quick song suggestion.

My eldest daughter, L, introduced the songs of Charlotte Diamond to me when she first started kindergarten here in Calgary and I gather that more than one generation of Canadians will be very familiar with this song!

Je suis une Pizza was L’s first introduction to speaking (and singing) French, but it is such a perfect echo song that she didn’t seem to notice that she was learning a new language.

My French is terrible, and the younger children haven’t had much exposure to French yet, but we all enjoy singing this song. And that opening got a laugh from the kids at least the first 20 times!

So, enjoy echoing Mme Diamond – or each other – and I’ll be back with another musical suggestion tomorrow.

ps. If you’d rather stick with English I am a Pizza can also be found on YouTube.

Summer Camp Week 3: Who is Bono?

When I set myself the challenge of sharing a musical activity each weekday of the summer I thought I might run out of ideas all too soon. But what I’ve found so far is that if I just keep my eyes (and ears, of course) open then there is almost too much music to explore in everything we do.

This abundance of inspiration and information has been almost overwhelming in the past – the worry that we wouldn’t get to EVERYTHING almost scared me off starting on ANYTHING (and I’m not just talking about making music here). However, once I decided to let go of the forward planning to a certain extent we’ve all been able to have so much fun just taking our musical cues from the everyday events of the summer break.

We are blessed with an excellent public library here in Calgary which has many wonderful children’s books about music, but music wasn’t necessarily on my mind when the girls picked up Ella by Mallory Kasdan and illustrator Marcos Chin.Ella book cover

This ‘cheeky parody’ is inspired by the fabulous Eloise (by Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight). Eloise book coverEloise is an established favourite in our house and Ella is certainly a winner for us too. After a couple of sessions just reading and enjoying the book our musical activities were inspired by Ella’s mum as, ‘She knows Bono.’

The kids didn’t know who Bono was, so we took a lengthy pause to listen to some U2 songs and watch some clips on YouTube. We tried:

  • One (the kids preferred the duet version with Mary J Blige)
  • Desire
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
  • When Love Comes to Town (for a bit of bonus B B King education)

Elsewhere in the book Ella says, ‘Sometimes I tie one leg to the other and try to dance’; we combined this with our U2 listening and it made for a VERY fun activity (albeit one with a high risk of tears before bedtime)!

So, apologies for a somewhat convoluted post but, in summary – my musical suggestion for today is, either:

1. Listen to a few classic rock/pop songs (and then tie your legs together and try to dance), or

2. Read through a couple of favourite children’s books following up on any musical cues you might find. And, of course, you could still tie your legs together and try to dance!

Summer Camp Week Two: Friday

Apologies for another late post; we have just returned from a short break in Jasper, Alberta (a post about music for a five-hour car journey may well follow one of these days!).

We saw many amazing sights and stopped to listen to the sounds of waterfalls, bird song… and even an avalanche.

As we explored the town of Jasper on Thursday we were able to stop and listen to just a little of the performance of Warrior Women, a First Nations mother and daughter drumming group who were performing outside the Heritage Fire Hall.

Children playing on a small model steam train in Jasper, Alberta.

The cheeky children deciding that playing was more important than providing material for this blog.

However, having been lucky enough to stumble upon the chance to enjoy some live music the kids spurned the music in favour of playing on a little train.

I really regret that we didn’t stop to listen to the whole performance and learn about drumming from Matricia and Mackenzie Brown, but I guess our follow-up activity will be to do some research ourselves to find out more about drumming in the First Nations cultures of Canada.  I think we’ll use this lesson plan from as our starting point.


Summer Camp Week Two: Thursday

Recently L has been asking to have a go on my violin and, as with too many requests, the answer is usually, ‘not right now’. So hooray for the summer break when there is less running about to various scheduled activities and more time for just trying things out.

A small child has a go at playing a full-size violin.

Six-year-old L grapples with a full-size violin.

My violin is full-size and my L is… not so much. But she enjoyed having a go, and reminded me of the ear-assault that my own parents had to go through as I first started to play at around age 9. Thank goodness for patient parents though – learning the violin is a true gift, as of all the orchestral instruments it is probably the most likely to see you finding a place in an orchestra no matter your skill and experience.

Do you have a musical instrument you’ve been meaning to let your child try out? Might the summer break be the time you find time? Or maybe you have a friendly local music shop or a kind friend who might let your child have a go (under supervision, of course). A project for another day is for me to track down somebody with an instrument that I’ve never tried to see if they will let me and/or my kids have a go.

Summer Camp Week Two: Wednesday

Today I am planning to show the children this YouTube clip of the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. I don’t know if they will have the concentration to listen to or watch much of it but I chose this particular clip for two reasons:

1. It’s a stunning piece and a great introduction to the gorgeous tone of the cello.

2. It is conducted here by Estonian Anu Tali – a female!

I may well return to the subject of the sad lack of high profile female conductors in a future post but, for now, my aim is just to allow my children to watch a female conductor in action and hope they see it as something both normal and inspiring (and not too boring!). I’m very interested to see whether they already (at ages 3, 4 and 6) have an opinion as to whether conducting is a ‘male or female’ kind of job… but I’m not sure I intend to lead the conversation in that direction.

Summer Camp Week Two: Tuesday

Today’s activity can be seen displayed as the new banner across the top of this blog.

I printed out a blank piano keyboard for the children to colour. So far E (my 4-year-old) is the only one who has completed hers, so it is her version you see at the top of the page. I gave her suggestions for which colours she should colour each note and showed her where to find them.

Six-year-old L is already working on finding her way around the keyboard, so I’ll be asking her to find all the Cs herself and colour them a certain colour, and so on with D, E, F…

Summer Camp Week Two: Monday

I’m a day late, so I’ll keep this short and sweet…

Our musical activity for today was a very brief first recorder lesson for L, my 6-year-old.  I attempted to teach her the basics of how to hold the recorder and play B, A and G. We didn’t work from written music, but simply repeated an easy rhythm pattern (set by L) and harmonised together playing B and G.

Learners of every age are eager to start playing tunes, but if you just have 5 or 10 minutes for an activity such as this, it does at least provide an opportunity to practice and experiment with how to hold the recorder and how hard to blow.

I realise this might not be a very useful guide for anyone who doesn’t have a recorder or doesn’t know the fingering, but I hope it might prompt you to pick up whatever instruments you might have at home and just work on playing a couple of notes together – even 5 minutes of music-making counts!

And learning the recorder is a subject I’ll return to in a little more detail next week, so please do come back!