Lullabies, continued

(Note: If you missed my previous November 19 post, “Lullabies,” it might be helpful to begin with that before moving on to this one.)

“Thank you for singing me to sleep last night,” I said to my California daughter-in-law the morning after she and her two children arrived at our house the week before Christmas. They had come earlier than our son who had concerts scheduled up until Christmas. It had been a long and exciting day for the children, and they were still on California time, making it hard for them to settle down. Finally, we were all in bed, and as I clicked off my bedside light, I heard a lullaby coming from the other side of the wall—”Baby’s boat’s the silver moon/sailing in the sky . . . ,” one of the songs I recorded for my granddaughter, Miriam, now being sung to her cousin. I sang along softly and then lay and listened to my daughter-in-law sing on. I knew she had not grown up hearing that song, but she was helping to pass it on to her children. That process was continuing.

This is not what I planned to write about, however. By that night I had already started a second part to the lullaby post. I’d had requests for a song from the CD, and as reluctant as I’d been to let anyone beyond the family hear me singing, I’d decided to take the plunge, intonation problems and all. Here I am, along with Wayne, singing “All Through the Night.” When this was recorded, Wayne was already having problems with his voice, so I particularly treasure the songs he recorded with me. They help me remember his beautiful tenor voice.

And since I had taken the plunge and figured out (with help from Jeremy and Wayne) how to link songs to the post, there was another lullaby I wanted to highlight. It was one that Jeremy had taken in a totally new direction—not on the lullaby CD but on another one. I should have known better than to give Jeremy the recordings of our entire sessions to edit—chatter, false starts, extraneous noises, and all. I knew he would put together the lullabies in a satisfactory way, but I also know he is never satisfied with doing only the expected, straightforward job. He is most happy adding his own twist to whatever he does, and this project proved to be no exception. At Christmas that year he presented me with a CD titled “The B-Sides.” It contained three tracks, not me singing lullabies, but take-offs on the lullabies themselves. One was a collection of the ones written in 3/4 time, playing them on his bass as waltzes. Another he called “Outtakes,” a collage of sounds, words, and snatches of songs that he cut from the recording and put together into a clever and funny piece.

The third was his version of “Swinging ‘Neath the Old Apple Tree.” It was a song that I learned from Grandma, one I assume she learned in school when she was a child. It created in my mind a sepia picture of a turn-of-the-century child swinging under a blossoming or fruit-bearing apple tree with cows in the background, grazing contentedly in an open, grassy field. I also remember it as the song Mother sang to my sisters and me and then to her grandchildren as she pushed us and them on a swing.

I had done an internet search to learn what I could about the song and found out that Oren Robert Barrows wrote both words and music and that his music began appearing in 1856. Grandma was born in 1896, so that meant her learning it at school fit chronologically. I also found the score in the December 1929 issue of a LDS Church children’s magazine, The Children’s Friend, but nothing more.

When Jeremy (who had taken swing dance classes) gave me the CD he said that every time he heard the title of the song, he pictured something quite different from my mental image. He titled the track “Swinging.” He recorded it on his bass with two friends, a drummer and a sax player.

So, here is me singing a rather sedate version of “Swinging ‘Neath the Old Apple Tree,” as I envision a bucolic, long-ago summer day.

and here is Jeremy’s much livelier swing version.

I wonder what version his son will create.

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  1. Annetta Millrr on January 4, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    What fun, Kathy! Thanks for sharing.

    • kathiekurtz on January 4, 2023 at 12:18 pm

      Yes, we have had lots of fun with both singing lullabies and enjoying Jeremy’s creative projects. The lullaby CD has given all the grandchildren a common fund of songs.

  2. Eunice Wenger on January 4, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Kathie, I enjoyed your songs and Jeremy’s too. Best was you and Wayne’s duet. His tenor was very lovely, as you mentioned.

    • kathiekurtz on January 4, 2023 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Eunice! Our days of singing together are mostly past, but once in a while he manages to sing a bit, like last night when we sang Happy Birthday to five-year-old Lennox. Wayne got at least some notes in.

  3. Margaret Wenger Johnson on January 4, 2023 at 10:51 pm

    This music you shared is wonderful to listen to. The lullaby is one I’m very familiar with and have sung it to my granddaughters as well. Lovely to get a glimpse of the music fun you’re having in your family, carrying on something of the musical talent and love of music that has come down through the generations for you. Thanks for sharing.

    • kathiekurtz on January 5, 2023 at 9:31 am

      Thanks, Margaret! Yes, we do have a lot of fun with music in our family, even though some of us are less gifted in that area than others. We just had a celebration for Wayne’s birthday while our family was here, and part of it was singing together. Those times make Wayne especially happy, and I enjoy them as well. Music is intangible and would be almost, if not totally, impossible to explain to someone from another planet. It could be described in terms of sound or vibrations, but that can’t begin to explain its ability to touch us at our deepest levels–to make us feel happy or sad, safe or afraid. It can at times express what words can’t. A mystery to me.

      • Evie Miller on January 6, 2023 at 9:33 pm

        This is a fun continuation of the “Lullabies” blog! Thanks.

        • kathiekurtz on January 7, 2023 at 9:04 am

          Thanks, Evie. It was fun doing even though it contained a new challenge–how to link sound recordings to my blog page. Jeremy to the rescue, once again!

  4. Diane Puckett on January 5, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    It was wonderful to hear you and Wayne sing. The apple tree song is my current ear worm, albeit a lovely one! I am amazed at what Jeremy did with it.

    I miss our breakfasts together, but it makes me happy when I hear how well things are going with you and Wayne. You two have created such a wonderful, loving family. 💗

    • kathiekurtz on January 5, 2023 at 4:58 pm

      I hope you don’t get tired of it before another song takes its place! I too miss our times together. I keep hoping that we can maybe come to Ashville again but am not sure when that might actually be a possibility. In the meantime, I am going to speak on the Asheville Wisdom Exchange (www.ashevillewisdomexchange,org) on March 15. We could pretend that I am just across town that evening. Best wishes to you in the new year!

  5. Margie Van Nostrand on January 5, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    Kathie, several days ago I heard a sermon that described love as an enhancement of life. I’m sure that the lullabies that have been passed down to you and your daughter in law, and which you both are passing on in kind, can be thought of as an enhancement of life, an act of love. Enhancement can obviously, as Jeremy and friends demonstrated, take many forms! – and whose lives are they enhancing? – many more than the babes who were the original audience of “Swinging ‘Neath the Old Apple Tree!” Thank you for the love experience, Kathie and Jeremy!

  6. kathiekurtz on January 5, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Margie, thanks for a new way of thinking of those songs. Thank you too for your enhancement of those songs–all your patient accompaniment that made it seem like a possible project for me. You too have done your share of enhancement in your thoughtful responses to my various posts. It’s always good to know that others connect with what I write about my experiences. That, after all, is why I write.

  7. Goldie Fretz on January 11, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    Kathie, this was just precious! Thanks for sharing this. The tune has been going through my mind for days. I only ever knew the chorus and am excited to get to know the verses too. Our first great grandchild was born Dec. 29 and I am eager to sing it to him when we can visit them in NYC.

    • kathiekurtz on January 11, 2023 at 8:45 pm

      So, will you be singing him my version or doing the instruments for Jeremy’s version–let me guess! Donna said she knew that song from childhood but wasn’t sure where she had learned it. It’s interesting how those old songs resurface in the most unexpected places. Where in NYC is your great-grand? We have three g’children in Brooklyn and I often muse about how different their growing up is from mine. However, they live in a neighborhood with lots of orthodox Jewish people and there are some interesting parallels. I have to smile to myself about some of that–its almost like part of my growing-up world emerges in their lives in a slightly different guise.

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