Friday, July 21, 2017

Music Minute: Ella Jenkins - Camp Songs

Typically when I review children's music, the artists are fairly young adults themselves. That's not the case with Ella Jenkins, recently awarded a National Endowment for Arts National Heritage Fellowship. She's celebrated 60 years as a Smithsonian Folkways artist, so she's got plenty of experience!

This summer she released Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins & Friends, a project she's wanted to do for years. Collaborating with families from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and Tony and Kate Seeger from Camp Killooleet, she created a fun collection of campfire sing-alongs, rounds, and nonsense songs. I recognized nearly all of the 25 songs, including Kumbaya and This Land is Your Land.

While there are traditional kids' songs like Row Row Row Your Boat, there are also updated tunes, including one that incorporates a dozen different languages and songs that aren't always considered camp songs (like Sloop John B and Goodnight Irene) reworked in the camp style.

To add to the camp feel, Jenkins provides introductions and little stories throughout the album. This was fun for my kids, husband, and in-laws to listen to!

More about Ella Jenkins

Jenkins, who turns 93 in August, has devoted her life to instilling a love of music in children. She released her first album for Folkways in 1957, and her 1966 album You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song remains one of the best-selling titles in the history of Smithsonian Folkways. She received a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award from The Recording Academy in 2004. The Old Town School of Folk Music is organizing a tribute concert at the Square Roots Festival in Chicago on July 8.  

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