At the Paul Simon concert in Hyde Park in July my sister and I sang along with the best of them. At one point a chap standing just in front of us, with whom we had had a bit of conversation already, turned and said to me, “You have a beautiful singing voice”. I thanked him for the compliment (at least, it sounded like a compliment, not an ironic comment!) and tried not to show my surprise. We laughed about it later as my sister and I swapped stories of music lessons where we were advised to sing quietly or not at all. But it’s hard to be at a concert in a park and hear songs you love and not sing along with everyone else!
When she was small, our eldest granddaughter used to sing along to songs by Ana Belén and Rosa León in Spanish. She had no idea what she was singing. But then, when she snag along to songs in English there were signs that she had no idea what they were about either; “I need a miracle” became “I’m in America”, a concept that made much more sense to a three year old. But her Spanish was delightful. This was just one of the consequences of spending time in the kitchen with me.
As she grew older my brother-in-law started taking her to folk music concerts. She became almost friendly with the folk singer Cara Dillon. She even dabbled with learning to play the tin whistle, the guitar and the keyboard but she was a little too dilettante to persevere properly. And she heard a range of music at our house, especially “music to wash up by”, usually something lively from the sixties. Consequently, as a teenager and now a young adult, she has always had a broad taste in music and knows artists others her age have never heard of.
She too sings Paul Simon songs.
I have no idea what her younger sister listens to. She wears her headphones and clearly listens to something but she doesn’t talk about her music with the passion shown by her older sister. In fact, she doesn’t talk about her music at all.
Her younger brother shares his music with all of us by having the volume turned up too loud. He is thirteen and seems to listen to rap and beatbox (at least I think that’s what it is), stuff with a doomph a doomph beat and incomprehensible, to me anyway, lyrics. But then he also gets sentimental about slow ballads on the car radio. So it goes.
Our four year old granddaughter, cousin to the three mentioned above, has always sung, in the car, playing her games, out and about. She makes her own sings up, sings songs from films like “Frozen” and has gone through the nursery rhymes learnt at preschool: “The wheels on the bus”, “incey wincey spider”, “Twinkle, twinkle little star” and so on. The other day she sang, or rather, recited, for me a version of the “Three bears” story which she had learnt for her “graduation day” from preschool. (Don’t even let me start to talk about my feelings on “graduation days”, “graduation ceremonies” and so on for four year olds!!!)
Now she has progressed to songs like “You are my sunshine”, complete with a whole set of actions. But the most surprising in her range of show tunes is “I love Paris in the springtime”. She knows all the words and ends with a hand on heart emotional “because my love is here!” Where did she learn that?
Our youngest grandchild is mostly still at the “Row, row, row the boat!” stage but I noticed that we were getting a lot of “doo doo, doo doo doo doo”. With a lot of arm waving as well. Puzzled, I asked my daughter what this was all about. “Oh, it’s Baby Shark”, she told me, as though that explained it all. It turned out to be a kids’ song on youtube from South Korea which has gone pretty viral and made it into the UK top 40. Here is a link to the song. And here is a link to a Guardian writer’s exasperated opinion of it. I love his description : “The Baby Shark song and dance video has had more than 1.6bn views on YouTube, by the simple expedient of creating something that sounds as if it was designed specifically to make adults want to yank their own teeth out with rusty pliers.”
So how does a two year old know this! Easy! She has teenage siblings who find it amusing to show her stuff like that on their iPhones and she loves to join in. Very little encouragment is needed to make a child show off!
Now, according to this article, with the right app on your phone you can dress in tune with your musical tastes. So goodness knows how my grandchildren should all dress.
As for me, I already have a hat rather like Leonard Cohen’s trilby - or is it a fedora - so I reckon I am already sorted.