The nocturnal chicken is a rare and musical species
Yesterday, I performed at two birthday parties and one Halloween party. This was the first time I'd ever had three performances in one day. I had a good time at all of the gigs. Here are some of the highlights:
*At one point during the first party, the 3 year old birthday girl told she had a guitar. I replied, "I'd love to hear you play it after I'm done." She immediately jumped up, ran into the other room, and brought back her little guitar. When one is three years old, there is no concept of "the future." All important time is now time.
*After the first party, the grandmother asked if the birthday girl could keep that day's rendition of Little Monkey Face. It was the first time anyone had ever asked to keep the drawing, and I signed and dated it for the birthday girl. I plan to leave future drawings with the birthday children.
*The second party had two birthday girls: a three year old and a five year old. The children laughed at the rhymes for "Jenny Jenkins," which was gratifying on the performer's end. I can do the same song or story dozens of times, but it's important to have the humility to remember that each group of children is different. What may resonate with one group could fall flat with another.
*Toward the end of the second party, I played Nancy Stewart's song "Nocturnal Animals" for the first time. I had made flannel-board creatures specifically for the song, and brought them out. After the song was over, one of the children said, "I really liked that song!" Another child said the same thing when I ended the storytime with Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "The Swing" (music composed by me).
*At both of the birthday parties, I overheard grownups say, "This was as much fun for the adults as it was for the kids." I really appreciated hearing that. I hope everyone takes the stories and songs they enjoyed and continue the oral tradition of passing them along to other people. One of the finger-plays I did twice at each party was "This is the Key to the Kingdom." There are a number of variations on the story (and you should feel free to modify it as you like), but the version I learned from Jane Cobb's What'll I Do With the Baby-o?.
*When I showed up for the Halloween party in the evening, I was greeted by older children wearing a variety of glittery and spooky costumes. The host had billed me as a "spooky storyteller," and the lighting was appropriately dim. I realized immediately that the majority of my props would not show up well in mood-light, and just brought out my guitar. I introduced the Halloween version of "The Green Grass Grows All Around" ("the pumpkins grew all around, all around...") and the children said, "We know this song!" They sang along with it perfectly on cue. I told some slightly shivery stories like Betty Lehrman's "The Graveyard Voice" and Margaret Read MacDonald's "The Gunniwolf" (my storytelling professor told me, "Your version is not for the littlest ones). What I had not expected was for the children to become really involved with "Nocturnal Animals." Not only did they have accurate ideas for the animals' sounds, but they acted out motions they'd made up themselves: in addition to owls, bats and cats, we had alligators, moles, raccoons and possums. One child insisted that a chicken was a night-time creature!
I'm performing at another Halloween party this afternoon. This time, the age range is among preschoolers and kindergarteners. My daughter will be one of them.