Sing Me a Song! A Cappella from Around the World for Kids is a delightful global cornucopia of children’s’ music, sure to delight the ears and minds of children for years to come.”
Writing a review of Emerald City Productions' Sing Me a Song! has been surprisingly difficult. It's not that the songs are subpar or the recordings anything but excellent, nor that the production is anything less than phenomenal. In fact, every part of this album is incredibly well-done, except possibly some of the song choices (we'll talk about that in a moment). No, it is simply the fact that, as a single, 30 year old gay man who was in theatre and now IT, I haven't heard any children's music since I was, oh, 14 and working at the church nursery. It was a surprising conundrum, which required me to NOT judge the album in any way that I would a regular a cappella album in terms of the complexity of the sound, the innovativeness of the arrangements, etc. While nice and fun for adults, these things are really throwaways when it comes to children. In fact, even song choice doesn't matter to kids. All they care about is if the lyrics are memorable, the melody is repeatable, and it has an interesting story.
If we measure the album by those three characteristics, the album is a smash hit. No song is too complex for kids to wrap their heads around, and the melodies are sufficiently memorable for children to run around singing them constantly, in a way sure to annoy their parents, but adorably, and there is a story within each song, even when one cannot understand the words. If I were a kid between 5 and 10 years, old, I would absolutely enjoy this album. However, there's one more thing we need to talk about: How this album gets into the ears of children.
Traditionally, this is going to be one of two ways: either through a teacher or a parent. Most likely, in the case of the wider world, I believe Emerald City is hoping to reach music and language teachers with this album, and if this is the case, the album is perfectly suited for the purpose. The multicultural nature of the album, while confusing to a layperson (who is also an adult), is educational gold for an educator, giving them the opportunity to introduce their students to cultures around the world at a very young age. Language skills, always more malleable at a young age, will be stimulated by the 6 different languages contained in one album; the liner notes make it very easy for a teacher with even no experience with other languages to teach their students how to sing the songs in their native tongue. Furthermore, the liner notes have done a wonderful job of providing a historical link to the culture that produced the song in many cases, giving teachers another way into discussing the global nature of our world and the diversity inherent in it today. Again, as long as this gets in front of them, I can see teachers flocking to this album and clamoring to use it in their classes.
Now we come to the parents, who may be the only slight weak point in the composition of the album. While many parents may end up buying the album because their children have come home to their parents, clamoring for their parents to find one of the songs on iTunes. This will most likely be the most common way for ECP and ACR to capture the family dollars on this album, and it will certainly be an appropriate gateway drug to a cappella for kids (Smart move to Danny and friends; brainwash them early and get them hooked!). However, due to the fact that many of the songs on the album will be unfamiliar to most parents and they'll be unlikely to know the songs that are not from the USA, I doubt this will be an impulse buy for parents in any situation. Unless to album rockets to the top of the Kids charts on iTunes (I HOPE IT DOES) or samplers are given out to parents, I'm not sure they'll buy it on their own.
This is a shame; it's a great album with great music (if I'm honest, I'd be listening to "Bumble Bee" any day; the arrangement is stellar, and the Real Group Kids could go out on their own right now) that will server an excellent early introduction to a cappella for kids, giving us an equal footing with the rest of pop music, at least in the schools. However, there's an even bigger reason for everyone possible to go and buy this album: all of the proceeds are going to two amazing organizations that are very close to my heart: the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation and the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. I could go into detail about why these organizations and the disease they exist to combat mean so much to me, but suffice it to say that CP is a disease that needs a cure, and the fact that all of the artists involved, A Cappella Records and Emerald City Productions are donating the proceeds is an amazing and wonderful thing. We need more of this; albums with a broad appeal that help to fund research for long-term change in our world, both medical and social.
In the end, Sing Me a Song! is an excellent collection of smart a cappella arrangements of global children's music, sure to delight children and teachers alike. Parents can rest secure in the fact that the album is helping their children grow up to be better citizens in today global economy, and those of us in a cappella can rest assured in the future domination of a cappella through the smart and careful indoctrination into a cappella of the coming generation. All in all, everyone wins! You can find Sing Me a Song! in the iTunes Store or at A Cappella Records. Go buy it now and gift it to a child you care about, or share it with a teacher you know!
About the writer:
Bryan Guffey has been singing since he was old enough to talk; 1983, to be exact. A bass/baritone with a fierce falsetto, Bryan has performed all across the United States and around the world for the last seven years. Currently living, in Cleveland, Ohio, Bryan started his first a cappella group while in high school, and a cappella has been his love ever since. A graduate of Kent State University, Bryan was the founding Music Director of the Kent Clarks in 2011 when he returned for a (brief) MS program, and holds a BFA in Musical Theatre. In 2009, Bryan sailed around the world with such luminaries as Blue Jupiter's Tim Foust, singing in the a cappella group Full Sail. Bryan recently moved to Chicago where, in his secret day job, he provides technology leadership for nonprofits. Recently, Bryan restarted his long-suffering CAL group, vocalFISSION, which has traveled with him in his head from Cleveland. This has been a much more fruitful endeavor, as Chicago has about 400% more a cappella than Cleveland.