Reason to Sing (The Hippopotamus Song)
Posted May 5, 2012on:
The other day in Ms. Howard’s class, were were about to sing,
The Hippopotamus Song
Words by Michael Flanders
Music by Donald Swann and Michael Flanders
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
This book features printed sheet music
Then, in a moment of lucidity (or pure torture for the kids since they were probably like, “Please just shut-up and sing!”), I suddenly felt the need to wax a little bit for the children of Ms. Howard’s class as to some great reasons why it is a good idea to spend time singing books.
I didn’t go on for too long (and less than what is below), but here’s a little of my thinking on the subject:
When we sing books, we are doing so much more that simply having a nice time singing a song. Really, just the act of singing alone would certainly be reason enough to justify spending time on the activity. But, when we sing songs, we are engaged in a community activity, building invisible – but real – bonds. We are creating community understanding, knowledge, and references. We are engaging great quantities of our brains, pulling together and exercising areas that involve language, music, memory, history (and so much more). We are breathing deeply, laughing, sighing, and empathizing. We are getting lost in a story, imagining and learning.
And there is more! We visit distant lands (real or imaginary)! These songs are windows to different worlds and words that are not necessarily part of our every day experience. The songs we sing are created in a particular place and time in history by people of that time and the songs they write reflect those histories (both of the world at that time and the personal histories of the songwriters). In The Hippopotamus Song we talked about the British songwriting team of Flanders and Swann, hippos in Africa, and the Shalimar Gardens in Northern Pakistan and how those gardens, constructed in the Persian style, inspired by love, were an inspiration for this hippo love story. And then there is the wonderful robust vocabulary of the book. How often, in every day conversation, do we get to say words like “serenade,” “inamorata,” or “ignoramus?” Or, “Shalimar” for that matter! These are some fantastic words and when you sing this song, you get to USE these words! Of course, it is important to know what they mean (click on the words above if you need a little help)!
I like to pause, occasionally, and reflect, validate and justify these activities. As this artist sometimes needs to assuage anxieties that arise from questions like “What on earth am I doing?” And I need to remind myself the reasons why. It’s easy to consider singing songs a frivolous or disposable activity. Singing is fun, yes. Singing is engaging, yes. But frivolous or disposable? No! The act of making music through song is joyous and enriching – and ESSENTIAL – and it is my passionate goal to make is part of our daily lives.