music · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Budding Opera Fan

Just before we left my parents house last Saturday, I found my dad and Isabelle sitting on the couch watching a performance of the Vienna Opera on PBS. Yes, that’s right. The Vienna Opera. And it wasn’t a kids’ performance either. It was the real deal.

Isabelle was listening intently to the singers and musicians. She clapped dutifully at the end of each song. (Or is it called an aria in opera? I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been an opera lover!) In fact, as I packed up the car, she played with her toys while the concert from Vienna played in the background. She was beyond patient with the long pack-up process thanks to the opera.

“Do you have any opera CDs you can loan us for the car ride home?” I asked my dad. “I want to see if playing opera keeps her calm in the car.” (She hasn’t enjoyed long car trips lately.)

“Yeah. What opera would you like?”

“I don’t know! I don’t even like opera. Do you have any Vienna Opera?”

“No,” he replied.

“Then you pick, Dad.”

He went into the living room and returned with a double-disc of “La Boheme.” He handed it to me and said, “I think she’ll enjoy this.”

As we headed out I put one of the CDs into my car’s CD player. Sure enough, Isabelle was quiet for the duration of the CD. That got us to the NJ/PA state line! Impressive!

* * * * *

I was preparing dinner on Monday evening when Isabelle began saying “Op-ba, op-ba, op-ba!”

“Do you want to listen to opera?” I asked.

“Yes!” she declared smiling.

I grabbed the second “La Boheme” CD and put it in our house’s CD player. But the CD player spit it back out. Shoot.

“This happens sometimes. Be patient,” I requested.

I tried inserting the CD again, but it was promptly spit back out.

“Op-ba, car! Op-ba, car!” Isabelle said.

“You want to listen to opera in the car?”

“Yep!” she said, happy I understood her wish.

“Mommy’s making dinner now. I can’t take you into the car to listen to opera.” I paused. What was I going to do? My toddler is demanding opera. How can I not comply?!!?

“Let’s try the cable TV music stations,” I offered while I searched for the remote. “I’m sure they have an opera station.”

I turned on the TV and plugged in channel 400. It was something that sounded very un-operalike.

“NO!” Isabelle said.

“Give me a chance to find it,” I said, scrolling through the music stations as quickly as possible.

Soft rock. Hard rock. Jazz. Smooth jazz. Hip-hop. Classical. Toddler Tunes. NO OPERA!

“They don’t have any opera on here sweetie,” I said.

“Op-ba, op-ba, op-ba!”

“I know!” Why didn’t I think of this sooner? “Let me download some opera onto my iPhone.”

Try navigating iTunes for opera when you don’t know squat about opera.

VIENNA OPERA — I typed into the search.

I found individual songs, but couldn’t find an album that I could settle on quickly.

I searched “opera” and found ones I’d heard of like “Carmen” and “Madame Butterfly,” but I didn’t know if she’d like them. I looked at Isabelle. Tears were coming out of her eyes and she was tugging on my leg. Do I just buy something?

That’s when I saw it. An album by the Three Tenors. Even though I could only tell you two of their names, I settled on that. $11.99. She better like it, I thought as it downloaded.

A minute later the verdict was in. The crying stopped. She looked at my iPhone satisfied and went off to play. The only time she looked up was to clap at the end of each track.

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imitation · music · OBSERVATIONS · picture books

This book makes hand gestures fun!

This meme was started by Sheila at Book Journey and the kids’ version has been adapted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

I’m not sure what the skill area would be called, but I’ve been trying to get Isabelle to imitate hand motions in familiar songs.  She imitates some of the gestures in some of the songs we sing in school, but she doesn’t copy the movements in the traditional pre-school songs (possibly because I don’t love singing those songs since they feel old school to me).  That said, I’ve been encouraged to sing “Wheels on the Bus” with her by quite a few folks since it has gestures that are easy to imitate.  No matter how many times I sung this song in the past, Isabelle was never excited about imitating the hand gestures.

Enter Pete the Cat and now she’s interested.

The Wheels on the BusPete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean is a new book that makes the “Wheels on the Bus” song exciting for Isabelle.  I introduced it to her at bedtime last night and had to read (i.e., sing/read) it to her twice.  Initially, Isabelle seemed excited about trying to sing the words “all day long” at the end of each page spread.  Quite frankly, I think she loved the illustrations since she thinks cats are cute.

This morning she perused the book independently while I was getting myself ready.  Then she handed me the book as a means to request that I bring the book downstairs.  Once we got downstairs, we sat down beside each other on the couch and I sang/read the book to her twice.  Again, she attempted to sing the words “all day long,” in addition to trying some of the hand motions.  She enjoyed beeping the horn on the bus, making the signals on the bus blink, and having the door on the bus open and shut.  James Dean added a few of his own lyrics to the “Wheels on the Bus” song, which Isabelle also seemed to enjoy.  For instance, there’s a page that reads:

The kitties on the bus say, “Come on, Pete!

Come on, Pete!

Come on, Pete!”

The kitties on the bus say,

“Come on, Pete!”

all day long.

Another new verse is Isabelle likes is:

The cats on the bus shout,

“Let’s rock out!

Let’s rock out!

Let’s rock out!”

The cats on the bus shout,

“Let’s rock out!”

all day long.

For this verse we imitate Pete, who is sitting on top of the school bus playing an electric guitar.  I must admit, Isabelle’s imitation is quite cute!

So, thank you, James Dean, for making an old school song fun to sing again!

music · slice of life

Bringing the Fun of Music Class Home

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Resting after several “John the Rabbit” songs.

holidays · Jewish · music · picture books

Elul: Preparing for the High Holidays Through Music, Books, and Food

I picked up a whole wheat challah this afternoon.  I prepared a chicken for dinner, which is roasting as I type.  I pulled out the ritual items for tonight’s Shabbat dinner.  As I did these things I remembered that Rosh Chodesh Elul is tomorrow night.

Elul, the month prior to the Jewish High Holidays, begins this weekend.  That means that Rosh Hashanah will soon be upon us.  This year, Isabelle is more aware of her Jewish life.  By aware I mean that she anticipates the grape juice coming towards her in the Kiddush cup, enjoys eating challah, and enjoys watching videos by the Maccabeats.  While it’s hard to cultivate a Jewish existence for a toddler, there are small ways that I will prepare for Yamim Noraim with her this year.

First, we will listen to to Tekiyah, the music of the high holidays from my former synagogue, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, in Manhattan.  I have the album on my iPhone, which means we can listen to the inspiring melodies of the high holidays on-the-go when we’re in the car.  While it’s far too early for her to learn the words or the meanings to the songs, I want her to hear the melodies of the songs that will be sung (though they’ll sound different in the synagogues we attend now) when we’re in synagogue as a family for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Second, we will read books.  I have a bunch of books that contain shorts stories about the high holidays.  I will begin to read those stories aloud to her during Elul.  Also, we just received a book from the PJ Library, Today is the Birthday of the World by Linda Heller and Allison Jay, which I’m really excited to add to our Jewish home library.  This book, which made me tear up the first time I read it, is an affirmation of the notion that every living thing contributes to making the world a more beautiful place.  Today is the Birthday of the World‘s message is that even a small child can help make the world a better place.  This is something I want Isabelle to internalize.  Even at her young age she can help to brighten someone’s day with a smile or a simple “hello.”  Additionally, as we prepare to begin a parent/child “school” program in the middle of Elul, I want to teach her that being kind to her classmates (by sharing toys and by being a gentle friend) is a way that you can honor yourself, other people, and G-d.

Finally, we eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize our hope for a sweet new year.  Therefore, I will reintroduce these foods to her during Elul.  Apples were a favorite until the bounty of summer kicked into high gear.  Therefore, we replaced our apples and pears, our winter fruit staples, with blueberries, strawberries, and melons.  Therefore, as we go through the month of Elul, we will again taste the sweetness of the apples (and the honey) so she’s ready to dip the apples into the honey on Rosh Hashanah.

How do you prepare for the high holidays with your children?  Please share your customs, ideas, and book titles by leaving a comment.