Let’s have Music – Children and Music

By Sue Barrett

“To Pacific Cascade Records’ northwest USA country and western, pop, some classical and film work, I added children’s albums in about 1969 because I saw how quickly and pleasurably children learn using music as the basic. I was quite fascinated and remained so.

Some of the artists were sheer magic in action. Others wrote such truly “kids’ view” material. The principal challenge was translating the charismatic effect of an artist via recording.

Putting it all together was a very rewarding personal experience which seemed to fill some pretty big gaps for parents and teachers. I had the fortunate opportunity to observe, and make available to others, programs which taught children all sorts of subjects and aided in healthful personal development in a thoroughly enjoyable, effective way through music coupled, at times, with activity and dance.” 

(Joan Lowe, Pacific Cascade Records, Oregon, USA)

It was a tiny, one-teacher primary school in rural Australia – just a single classroom, plus a bicycle shed and pony paddock.

And, like many young Australians, the pupils would gather around the radio for music lessons, courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s schools programs.

Over many years, those ABC music programs (including Singing and Listening and Let’s Have Music) introduced young listeners to folk songs from Italy, Chile, Korea and Africa; songs with Indigenous Australian lyrics (including Ted Egan’s ‘Arnhem Land Lullaby’); poetry (Henry Lawson/Banjo Paterson) set to music; songs using classical music (from Schubert, Mozart, Brahms, Offenbach); contemporary and topical songs from Flanders & Swann, Woody Guthrie, Melanie Safka, Ray Parker Junior, Shel Silverstein, John Shortis, Carole King, Shane Howard and Malvina Reynolds; and modern religious songs and carols from Sydney Carter (‘Lord of the Dance’) and John Wheeler & William G James (‘Carol of the Birds’ and ‘Christmas Day’).

Now LEVITY BEET (New Zealand) and AL START (England) tell FolkBlog about making music with, and for, children, in today’s world…
Continue reading Let’s have Music – Children and Music

Connections – Musicians and their Instruments

Editor’s Note – The following article is presented courtesy of its author, Sue Barrett. All publishing rights remain solely hers.

Connections – Musicians and Their Instruments

By Sue Barrett

What exactly is an orchestra? A famous conductor was once asked that question. After a great deal of thought, he replied, “It’s a collection of people scraping, blowing and banging things all at once.” Oddly enough, the conductor was quite right.

(Introduction to The Instruments of the Orchestra (45 rpm), narrated by Joseph Cooper, with the Sinfonia of London)

Growing up in Australia, generations of children learnt about music through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, including ABC radio’s school broadcasts.

In 1969, for example, the Singing and Listening program (for senior primary grades) included ‘Maranoa Lullaby’ (Australian Aboriginal song), ‘Ma Bella Bimba’ (Italian folk song), ‘Little David’ (African American spiritual) and Mozart’s ‘The Birdcatcher’. Whilst the Let’s Have Music program (for grades three and four) included the Yiddish song ‘A Fiddler’, Paul Yarrow and Leonard Lipton’s ‘Puff (The Magic Dragon)’, ‘Tingalayo’ (a calypso song from the West Indies), Tom Paxton’s ‘The Marvellous Toy’ (“It went ‘zip’ when it moved, and ‘bop’ when it stopped, And whirr when it stood still”) and the ‘Skye Boat Song’ (by Annie MacLeod and Sir Harold Boulton).

In 1972, Singing and Listening included ‘Tortillas’ (Chilean folksong), Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘With Catlike Tread’ (from The Pirates of Penzance), the Canadian song ‘Land of the Silver Birch’ and Henry Lawson’s ‘The Drover’ (set to an Irish tune). And Let’s Have Music included Woodie Guthrie’s ‘So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You’, the Arabic folk song ‘Tafta Hindi’, Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Yellow Submarine’ and the Kentucky mountain song, ‘The Old Maid’.

Now FolkBlog explores musical instruments, music making and introducing children to music with Ruth Hazleton (an Australian singer, guitarist, clawhammer banjo player and folklorist), Kara Square (an American singer/songwriter, videographer, composer and ukulele player), Liz Frencham (an Australian double bass player, singer and songwriter) and Rachel Hair (a Scottish harpist, composer and music teacher).

Continue reading Connections – Musicians and their Instruments

Ronnie Gilbert Tribute

Ronnie Gilbert (1926-2015)

American performer Ronnie Gilbert passed away in early June 2015, aged 88.

FolkBlog now pays tribute to Ronnie Gilbert, with a previously unpublished article from The Recorded Songwriter series.

THE RECORDED SONGWRITER…Judy Small & Ronnie Gilbert (2003)

When somebody else does your stuff, then there’s a chance that you might actually be a songwriter.” – Cris Williamson, 2001

Judy Small lives in Australia; Ronnie Gilbert lives [lived] in the USA. Judy’s father was a journalist; Ronnie’s mother was a unionist and socialist. Judy’s song ‘Never Rock ’N’ Rollers’ includes the line, “Our songs’ll never make it to the charts we know and we’ll never have a number one”; Ronnie’s group, The Weavers, topped the US music charts with the million-selling hit, ‘Goodnight Irene’. Judy’s song, ‘Mothers, Daughters, Wives’, appears on Ronnie’s album, The Spirit Is Free (1985). Here are some reflections [from 2003] from Judy and Ronnie on the song.

Continue reading Ronnie Gilbert Tribute

World Environment Day 2015 – Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

Editor’s Note: Sue Barrett submitted this article in plenty of time for this to run before World Environment Day. All responsibility for its tardiness belongs to the editor. All rights and credit otherwise belong to Sue Barrett and this article appears with her permission.

by Sue Barrett

Rachel saw the changes in the coastline/

In the fish, in the wildlife, the forests and the trees/

She knew these were canaries in the coalmine/

She felt it in her body, in the air and in the seas/

Silent Spring, Silent Spring

(Pat Humphries/Sandy O, ‘Silent Spring’)

It’s almost thirty-five years to the day since American biologist and nature writer Rachel Carson was posthumously awarded the USA’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

According to the citation read out by President Jimmy Carter in early June 1980:

Never silent herself in the face of destructive trends, Rachel Carson fed a spring of awareness across America and beyond. A biologist with a gentle, clear voice, she welcomed her audiences to her love of the sea, while with an equally clear determined voice she warned Americans of the dangers human beings themselves pose for their own environment. Always concerned, always eloquent, she created a tide of environmental consciousness that has not ebbed.

The theme for World Environment Day that year was: A New Challenge for the New Decade: Development Without Destruction.

With World Environment Day coming up on Friday 5 June 2015, FolkBlog explored environmental matters with musicians ELENA HIGGINS and TASH TERRY (of Indigie Femme) (New Zealand/USA), CRAIG MINOWA (of Cloud Cult) (USA), JENNY BIDDLE (Australia), BERNIE KRAUSE (USA) and JODI MARTIN (Australia)…

Continue reading World Environment Day 2015 – Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.

A Lot to Say – Into the World of Hip-Hop

Editor’s Note: Sue Barrett contributes articles to this blog and retains all rights to this and all articles that appear here.

By Sue Barrett


Miss Kinnie Starr’s the name

I was born to bear the flame

that excites you to the game of contemplation

now just enjoy this here collision

rock ‘n roll folk hip hop fusion

(Kinnie Starr, ‘Sex in the Prairies’)


A somewhat bemused owner of a record store in Australia led the way to his small collection of hip-hop CDs. Then he made the collection even smaller by removing several miscategorised CDs (including the only one by a female artist).

With the release of the nominations for the 57th Grammy Awards, and Iggy Azalea’s four nominations (including Best Rap Album), the record store’s hip-hop collection might now be growing.

It was at the 31st Grammy Awards, in February 1989, that a Rap category appeared in the Awards for the first time (albeit with the award apparently presented prior to the telecast) – DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince won Best Rap Performance, with ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’.

Other winners at the 31st Grammy Awards included George Michael (Album of the Year, with Faith), Bobby McFerrin (Record of the Year and Song of the Year, with ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’), Tracy Chapman (Best New Artist), KT Oslin (Best Country Song, with ‘Hold Me’) and Ziggy Marly and the Melody Makers (Best Reggae Recording, with Conscious Party).

Later in 1989, Elaine Meitzler wrote, as part of a review of Neneh Cherry’s record ‘Buffalo Stance’, in the 25th (and final) issue of Bitch: The Women’s Rock Newsletter With Bite (p. 35):

“Looks like Rap is a genre that is here to stay…Some rap groups are funny, like Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, or have a hardcore political stance, like Public Enemy. But Neneh is sassy, cool, and tough.”

Neneh Cherry has certainly been in the spotlight this past year, with the release of her first solo album in over sixteen years, Blank Project (which appeared in a number of Best of 2014 lists) and a string of performances and other projects.

As 2014 closed and 2015 opened, and with the 57th Grammy Awards upon us, NASTAIJ (Australia), KINNIE STARR (Canada) and BE STEADWELL (USA) talked hip-hop with FolkBlog.

Continue reading A Lot to Say – Into the World of Hip-Hop

Playing for the Rent – Musicians and Their Experiences of Busking

Note: Sue Barrett’s articles appear on FolkBlog due to her kind permission and she maintains all rights to the article published below.

By Sue Barrett

Now she’s playing for the savior and she’s playing for the rent
And she smiles as you throw in your fifty cents
That old accordion is like her heart, squeezed together and pulled apart

(Connie Kaldor – ‘Singer of the Sacred Heart’)


A short time ago, an art and music lover was reminiscing about having once attended an adult education course on giants of modern art, where part of the discussion focussed on the influence of modern art on record covers.

With this in mind, and under the pretence of “tidying up” the music collection, a recent perusal of hundreds of records and CDs revealed a broad range of covers – some more memorable than others (in positive and negative ways).

Adorning the album covers are photos, paintings, drawings and ‘stuck on’ items. There are gate-fold covers and shaped covers. Some covers have no illustrations, some have no writing. There are covers with naked people, people in fancy dress, people with instruments. There are covers with motor vehicles, aircraft, boats and farm equipment. There are illustrations of food, flowers, ornaments, hats and caps. And buildings, walls, jetties. Some covers show rain, some snow and some sunshine. One cover has a picture of toilet paper. A close by album has a display of chest hair. And the artwork for English folk duo Spiers & Boden’s Vagabond (2008), shows scenes of performers busking.

Now musicians TRET FURE (USA), KAT GOLDMAN (Canada / USA), JENNY BIDDLE (Australia), KELLY MENHENNETT (Australia), NICK KEELING (of Mustered Courage) (USA / Australia) and KERRYN FIELDS (New Zealand / Australia) tell us about their experiences of busking – in streets, markets, parks/squares, shopping malls, cafes and railway stations. Playing for bread and milk. And playing for the rent.

Continue reading Playing for the Rent – Musicians and Their Experiences of Busking

Late Nights, Long Distances and Roadside Toilets – Musicians on Tour

Note: Sue Barrett is a music journalist from Australia who is an occasional contributor to FolkBlog.  This piece appears by her gracious permission and she retains all rights to this article.

By Sue Barrett

But could we discuss this later please/

I’ve been driving for 6 hours/

And I’ve been drinking too much tea/

(Julie Schurr – ‘Boi in the Girls’ Room’)

On a late night train in Sydney, Australia, a group of young women were discussing an upcoming party. Apparently the party included a dress requirement, which brought on a discussion of Pantaloons and espadrilles. Not exactly sure what these fashion items looked liked, but with good spelling skills and perhaps a sense of dread, one of the young women pulled out her smartphone to look for images on the internet.

Nearly twenty years before, when the internet was still developing and smartphones were an information superhighway fantasy, American singer-songwriter Dar Williams published The Tofu Tollbooth, a directory of natural-food stores for travellers.

Many songwriters, including Dar Williams, write about travelling – songs of trips by bus, train, car and plane; songs of emotional and spiritual journeys. Songwriters like Enda Kenny (‘The Streets of Joyce’), Kate Campbell and Walt Aldridge (‘Miles of Blues’), Cheryl Wheeler (‘Rainy Road into Atlanta’), Iain ‘Fred’ Smith (‘American Guitar’), Victoria Williams (‘Holy Spirit’) and Humble Tripe’s Shawn Luby (‘Traveled’).

Now Rebecca Wright (Australia) and Julie Schurr (USA) tell of lives spent travelling, as musicians on tour…

Continue reading Late Nights, Long Distances and Roadside Toilets – Musicians on Tour

From Jukeboxes to Digital Downloads – Sharing the Experiences of two Generations of Musicians

Note: Sue Barrett is a music journalist from Australia who is an occasional contributor to FolkBlog.  This piece appears by her gracious permission and she retains all rights to this article.

By Sue Barrett

And I thank my lucky stars/
And whoever’s up there in charge/
That I have music/
Cause I wouldn’t know where to start/
Without these songs inside my heart/
To show you who I am, who I am


(lyrics: Jessie Vintila; music: Jessie Vintila/Emma Royle)

Amongst the regulars at the local record store is a burly man who is an expert on all-things Bruce Springsteen. Recently, however, his focus (and one of his hands) was on the store’s advance copy of My Heart – the new CD from Doris Day (the same Doris Day who sold a million copies of ‘Sentimental Journey’ in the 1940s, who won an Oscar for the song ‘Que Sera, Sera’ in the 1950s and who received Golden Globe Awards as the world’s favorite actress in the 1960s).

Another album that has been playing on rotation at the record store is Suzi Quatro’s In The Spotlight. Like Doris, Suzi’s work covers more than just music – with Suzi appearing in a number of television shows, including Happy Days, Dempsey & Makepeace (‘Love You To Death’, Series 2) and Bob the Builder. Early in her music career, Suzi performed with her sister Patti (who went on to join the 1970s rock band, Fanny).

Coincidently, June and Jean Millington (both key members of Fanny) recently released a new CD, Play Like a Girl. As with Jessie Vintila, from the Australian indie/folk band The Lucky Wonders, June Millington has written about the importance of music to her inner self – “There’s nothing like the sound of music/To take my spirit home” (‘Ladies on the Stage’). These days, a large part of June’s time is taken up with The Institute for Musical Arts (www.ima.org), including its rock ’n’ roll programs for girls and young women.

With older musicians continuing to perform, and young musicians emerging, FolkBlog turned its attention to the experiences of two groups of musicians who are separated, in age, by around forty years.

A.O. (from the lost bois) and ALYNDA LEE SEGARRA (from Hurray for the Riff Raff) are in their 20s; whilst LUI COLLINS and GAYE ADEGBALOLA are now in their 60s…

Continue reading From Jukeboxes to Digital Downloads – Sharing the Experiences of two Generations of Musicians

Celebrate Canada – 2011

Note from woodsmeister  – This is a guest article from regular FolkBlog contributor and Australian correspondent Sue Barrett.  Published by permission.  All rights, credits, plaudits, etc., belong to her alone.

Celebrate Canada – 2011

By Sue Barrett


Be who you are! It’s the best course to take!
Stick to your own kind,
Although your heart may break,
Think of your mother, how it would bring her joy
If you dated a Canadian boy

(Nancy White – ‘Ballad of the Wannabe’, Stickers on Fruit)

When Elizabeth Taylor died earlier this year, American singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash shared a story via Twitter about how the film star (born 27 February 1932) used to send a birthday telegram every year to Rosanne’s father Johnny Cash (born 26 February 1932), which read: “Remember, I’m younger than you!”.

Amongst Johnny Cash’s music is a live album recorded in 1969 at San Quentin State Prison (Johnny Cash at San Quentin), with its intriguing line: ’cause I’m the *bleep* who named you “Sue”. Of course, these days, the bleep has been demystified, courtesy of YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=T678ic45k98)!

Canadian Buffy Sainte-Marie is another *bleeped* performer, with at least one of her singles (‘She Used to Wanna be a Ballerina’/ ‘Moratorium’) affected – *bleep* the war and bring our brothers home.

Some time after Johnny and Buffy released their records, two American performers met at a folk festival in Toronto – Cathy Fink (who had spent a number of years living in Canada) and Marcy Marxer. Later, working as a duo, Fink and Marxer included the Lou and Peter Berryman *bleeped* song, ‘A Chat With Your Mother’ (aka The F-Word Song), on their 1995 album, A Parents’ Home Companion.

Also appearing on A Parents’ Home Companion is Canadian Nancy White’s song, ‘Daughters of Feminists’ (“How do they get so girlie? How come they want a Barbie?”). Nancy White (www.myspace.com/nancywhitemusic) has two musician daughters – Suzy Wilde (StoneFox, Flashlight Radio) and Maddy Wilde (Spiral Beach).

In Canada, at this time of year, there is a series of Celebrate Canada events – National Aboriginal Day (21 June), Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (24 June), Canadian Multiculturalism Day (27 June) and Canada Day (1 July).

Six musicians from Canada now share their story – Mary Kastle (Vancouver), Annette Campagne (Regina), Little Hawk (Winnipeg), S. Lynn Phillips (Random Order) (Toronto), Faith Nolan (Toronto) and Tanya Davis (Halifax).

Continue reading Celebrate Canada – 2011

Beat, Texture and Layers of Sounds – Into the World of Drums and Percussion

woodsmeister’s note:  Sue Barrett is a music journalist from Australia who occasionally provides articles for the FolkBlog.  This article is provided with her permission and all rights, credits and copyrights belong to Sue Barrett.

By Sue Barrett

Music is such a communicative tool.

[There are] not many people in the world who don’t listen to music.

And whether they actually listen to it and hear the content of it, or not, some part of every piece of music that everybody hears affects them.

Simply because of the vibration.

(Deb Morrow, Rhythms, July 2000)

In a tiny gallery/bar, a few months ago, a young musician was setting up her drum kit – quite a challenge really, with a “stage” not much bigger than the top of a kitchen table and a vintage couch just inches away from her snare drum.

Now Anastassijah Scales, performing that night as part of The Lucky Wonders, joins Bree van Reyk and Melissa York in sharing insights into the world of drums and percussion.

ANASTASSIJAH SCALES (www.theluckywonders.com)


Australian Anastassijah Scales grew up in Armidale and Coffs Harbour, studied music at Southern Cross University (Lismore) and currently lives on the north coast of New South Wales. Anastassijah began performing, singing and playing guitar in her early teens, and drumming in bands when she was about seventeen. Late in 2009, Anastassijah joined the roots/pop/folk group, The Lucky Wonders, which spent 2010 touring Australia – from coast to coast – promoting its debut album, Thirteen O’Clock. The Lucky Wonders, who recently released two new songs (‘Anyway’ and ‘Thing About Leaving’), also includes songwriters Emma Royle and Jessie Vintila, with Sam Parker on bass.

BREE VAN REYK (www.myspace.com/breevanreyk)


Australian Bree van Reyk was ten when she started learning percussion, later going on to complete a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours from the School of Music, Australian National University, Canberra. Bree began her professional music career playing triangle with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra in an Opera Australia production of The Barber of Seville, when she was twelve years of age. Since then, Bree has been a member of the indie rock group, The Rebel Astronauts, and has played percussion, drums and/or other instruments with a range of classical, popular and new/contemporary music performers and groups, including Holly Throsby, Darren Hanlon and Ensemble Offspring. In addition, Bree is a member of Synergy Percussion and plays with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (the orchestral partner of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet). Bree also writes and records music for dance, theatre and film – recently combining with Nick Wales on the soundtrack for the dance theatre work, Happy As Larry, and composing music for, and performing live as a solo instrumentalist in, Bell Shakespeare’s 20th anniversary production of King Lear.

MELISSA YORK (www.humbletripe.com)


Melissa York is a self taught pop-punk drummer, who grew up in New York City and New Jersey and now lives in North Carolina. As her family’s apartment wasn’t big enough for a drum set, Melissa began playing flute in about 8th grade, then moved on to clarinet, bass clarinet and tuba. When she was in her early 20s, Melissa finally took up drums. Since then, she has performed with many bands, including The Manacled, Vitapup, the Rings, Sugar Shock, Ex-Members, The Butchies and Team Dresch. Melissa York is currently the drummer with the indie/Americana/folk-rock band Humble Tripe, as well a member of Amy Ray’s band.

Continue reading Beat, Texture and Layers of Sounds – Into the World of Drums and Percussion