(1964) Various Artists – Songs for Children

Argo issue number: ZDA 32

Availability: never issued on CD

Three EPs of songs drawn from the album were issued in 1964 by Argo as EAF 101-103 (mono) and ZFA 101-103 (stereo). See When You Bang on a Drum EAF 102. Four of the tracks (marked with an asterisk in the track listing below) were re-issued as part of the 1971 Argo compilation album The World of the Very Young.

All songs arranged by: Anne Mendoza and Joan Rimmer

Mary Rowland – mezzo-soprano, harp
Pat Shaw – baritone, guitar
James (Jimmy) Blades – side drum, bongos, castanets, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, tubular bells
Joan Rimmer – celeste, small glockenspiel, chime bars, maracas


Side One
Aiken Drum*
Ground Hog
Down By The River
The Surprise
Mister Banjo*
Oh, Come and Dance with Me
Polly Parrot
The Mill-wheel
Jinny Crack Corn*
Mango Walk
Khasi’s Holiday

Side Two
When You Beat on a Drum
One, Two, Three a’lary
Sur Le Pont d’Avignon
There was a pig went out to dig
What shall I do with the baby-oh?
Mistress Brown
The Bells
The New Moon
Three Little Pigs
The Children’s Lullaby
Husho, sleepy-head
Cradle Song

Argo’s first foray into the world of educational folk, this album is by and large an audio version of Anne Mendoza and Joan Rimmer’s school book ‘Thirty Folk Settings for Children’, published by Curwen in 1963.

The songs here come from all over the world – a Jamaican jumping game (Toady), a Scottish dandling jingle (Mistress Brown), a Dutch nursery rhyme (Polly Parrot), songs from Spain (When You Beat on The Drum and The Surprise – with new words instead of the ‘somewhat adult’ originals), ‘negro’ and white songs from the USA (Mister Banjo and Groundhog – the latter too with new words instead of ‘the authentic but cruel folk text’), from France, Ireland and from India too (Khasi’s Lullaby).

When it was issued in the States in September 1965 (Donovan had just broken into the Top 100 Albums with Catch The Wind), Billboard selected Songs for Children as its ‘Children’s Spotlight’ album. “Chosen with taste and understanding, these 26 tunes are little gems for children…all are irresistible and beautifully arranged. Adults will enjoy this as well.”

Mendoza and Rimmer
Together, with others, and individually, Mendoza and Rimmer were responsible for loads of children’s music manuals. Here are some:

1957 ‘Seven Simple Songs for Children with Optional Parts for Piano, Chime Bars, Dulcimers Percussion and Recorders’
1959 ‘Rhymes with Chimes: A Book of Traditional Songs Arranged for Group Singing, Playing, and Dancing in Nursery & Infant Schools’
1963 ‘Graded Rounds for Recorders or Voices’
1964 ‘On the Beat’ (not to be confused with the 1962 Norman Wisdom film)
1966 ‘Let’s Sing and Play’
1966 ‘Thirty More Folk Settings for Children’
1979 ‘Sociable Carols’

Celtic music academic
Apart from writing and arranging for children, Rimmer was a music researcher and scholar who produced the definitive book on the Irish harp in 1969. So was her hubby, the Irish musicologist Frank Harrison, who, at the time this album was issued, was reader in music at Oxford University.

He was putting in a bit of time with Argo too. In 1965 he was musical director of a British Council sponsored album of Medieval English Lyrics. The psaltery player? Joan Rimmer.

A few years later Harrison would take up the chair of ethnomusicology in Amsterdam, where Joan would research the similarities between the folk dance music of 19th century Friesland and that of the other side of the North Sea. Nice work if you can get it.

James Blades and the J Arthur Rank gong
Not only was James Blades the foremost British percussionist of the 20th century, he was also the man who banged the gong (well, a Chinese tam-tam) that Bombardier Billy Wells and others mimed to at the start of every Rank organisation film.

Blades took a delight in doing all sorts with percussion. It was he who tapped out the V for Victory in morse code (on an African drum with a kettledrum stick) that the BBC’s war-time listeners in occupied Europe used to tune in to at the start of broadcasts.

And it was Blades who came up with the goods when John Cage demanded the sound of a large resonating gong being lowered into a tub of water.

When Benjamin Britten (a tough taskmaster with whom he worked and recorded a lot – a fair bit of it on Argo) needed an instrument that would sound like feet dragging wearily through sand, Blades came up with a seed-filled gourd.

But that’s just one foot, said Britten apparently, so Blades returned with a conical gourd in which the seeds ambled and slithered from sharp to blunt end.

Despite a prolific recording, writing and performance career, when he died in 1999, aged 97, the Guardian said most people would remember him as “an endearing, modest and entertaining communicator”.

It was his second wife, the oboist Joan Goossens, who suggested after they married in 1948 that he take up lecturing “and it is through this medium of personal communication that Blades is most fondly remembered by generations of 50s schoolchildren, industrial workers, prison inmates, the handicapped, music-club members, and early television viewers,” the paper’s obituary said.

“Aside from disseminating knowledge about his instruments and his life story, his lecture-recital-demonstrations with Joan affected thousands through his charm, wit, wisdom, and his wonder at the gifts bestowed on him.”

And he left school at 13! And his home in Peterborough at 19…to join the circus for £3 5s 6d, plus uniform and tent! And he played in dance bands in the 20s and 30s!

And here he is on this record, at the age of 62, playing simple arrangements of folk songs on instruments familiar to children, just so they can have the fun he has. Fantastic.

~ by folkcatalogue on January 27, 2010.

One Response to “(1964) Various Artists – Songs for Children”

  1. I just discovered your blog and I think you have done fantastic work. Excellent background on these records, terrific writing, fun all around! Thank you for all of this. Hopefully readers will send you many missing albums in the future; if I ever find any you need I will certainly forward them.
    This record in particular is just too much fun. Also as a bonus, the stream of the A side has almost 20 minutes of the end grooves of the record playing over and over. I am going to sample this and will forward you the royalty when it becomes an international hit!

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