What We’re Listening To: Charlie Brown Christmas

charliebrownchristmas Photo by Kevin Dooley

Our music columnist Jennifer has some timely musical recommendations for us:

As seems appropriate for this month I’m going to recommend one of my favorite Christmas albums.

But first I want to say – I really love Christmas music! I like to pull out my holiday collection as soon as the season starts and listen throughout.  And when it comes to Christmas music I tend to gravitate toward that which makes me feel nostalgic.  I love classic tunes by classic artists; I can’t seem to get enough of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in various arrangements.

While the album I’ve chosen for this month doesn’t include that particular song, it’s one that I think will evoke memories of childhood for many of you.  If “Wha, wha, wha, wha” reminds you of the sound of an adult speaking, then you’ll know my December recommendation for you as the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This album has the sounds of your favorite Peanuts characters combined with a lovely selection of jazzed up instrumental arrangements of some holiday classics.  I enjoy the combination of both vocal and instrumental songs; it seems to be the perfect low key mix that you can easily put on in the background of any holiday activity. In fact, I think last year this was the music we played during Christmas breakfast.  But no matter what the occasion, it’s great for both adults to sit back and soak in while children dance about.

We have the 2006 Remastered Version, which is the most recent release of the three available versions of the soundtrack
.  I honestly didn’t realize until researching this review that there were multiple versions available, and that some controversy surrounds them as to which deserves the title as best or authentic.

Our family has been blissfully ignorant of any other choices and satisfied with this version.  But if you prefer the unedited version as heard on the original 60s television show, it’s also currently available for purchase. You can listen to a sample from all three albums and read more about the controversy at amazon.com.

Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on television each December continues to be a tradition for many families, and if yours is one of those families then I’m sure you will smile as I do when that familiar music starts playing.

I also wanted to share a couple of other musical tips for your holiday listening pleasure:

  • If you happen to have a Starbucks in your neighborhood and if you spend $15 this month at any participating store you will receive a free CD featuring Playing for Change, U2, Dave Matthews Band & John Legend.  For each CD distributed, Starbucks will also donate $1 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa.  (visit What’s New in Stores for more details)  It’s a nice way to pick up some free tunes and give back at the same time.  Starbucks is also offering free weekly song downloads through the Pick of the Week program that is holiday inspired (available at participating locations).
  • Also, if you live in the US, be sure to explore Pandora internet radio to expand your holiday soundtrack by adding a new holiday inspired station.  Here are some Christmas music channel ideas from the Pandora blog.

I’d love to know what your favorite holiday songs/albums are. What do you keep coming back to year after year and what do your kids enjoy? Is there any album in particular you’re planning to add to your collection this year?

What We’re Listening To: World Music

sing Photo by ktylerconk

As the cooling weather brings many of us indoors, it is a wonderful time to expand the family’s music library.  Jennifer returns this monthly with her monthly “What We’re Listening To” feature to share some ideas on adding cultural diversity to your music collection:

This month we’re celebrating birthday number three in our home, and in celebration of that I wanted to share with you a very special collection of music that I put together two years ago for my son’s first birthday.  Before I introduce the songs, I wanted to explain a little bit about how I came up with this idea and why.

As a way to get ourselves out of the house and do something fun that we both could enjoy, I began taking my son to a fabulous music class just a couple of months before his first birthday.  We got to sing, dance and play instruments.  It was an activity that we both really looked forward to and helped define our love of music as a family.  It also became a bit of a “defining” activity for my son – meaning we found he really loved music and we wanted to encourage that.

Our family lived in Europe at the time we attended this music class, and the list of songs I have created below represents both our time living there as well as the other countries we have been fortunate enough to visit.  Some of the songs representing the countries below are a loose interpretation of that country, but I thought it might be a good place to start.  Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, it might be a great jumping off point for your own family’s explorations into world music:

Should you be interested in reading a little bit more about teaching your children about the world through multicultural music and the benefits of exposing your children to music in general, check out the following:

Does your family enjoy world music? What songs and which artists would you add to this list?

What We’re Listening To: Carly Simon’s Into White

Jennifer returns to share a new recommendation of What We’re Listenting To for this month.  As autumn settles in, our rhythms naturally begin to slow down.  This month’s selection provides a perfect soundtrack for the ever-shortening days of fall:

IntoWhitecoverSometimes we just need a little music to soothe our souls.  I know I can really identify with that this month, having recently packed up my home and put myself and my son on an airplane for an extended visit away.  It seems like September faded into chaos as the day to leave got closer, and now that we’re here we’ve started to find ways to settle into a somewhat familiar routine in our home away from home.

One of the ways we’ve done that is by bringing an iPod loaded with my son’s favorite “up-time” and bedtime music (I’m truly thankful right now for technology that allows me to bring so much in such a small package!).  One soothing album I love to turn back to again and again is Into White by Carly Simon.

This album was released just a couple of months after my son was born and just about the time we solidified our bedtime ritual of having music playing as he was being soothed to sleep.  In my new mother haze I somehow caught an interview with the artist promoting this album, and I loved her description of the album as one she put together with children in mind and quickly added it to our family’s collection.  I’m so glad I did.

We have many choices for bedtime music in our house, but this is one of Mommy’s favorites.  I love the simplicity of the selections and the beautiful voice of a truly talented artist.  The melodic rhythm has a calming, centering quality that helps me to relax in that rocking chair at the end of the day just as much as it does my child.

“Into White” has both old favorites you will recognize like “Oh! Susannah,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Over the Rainbow” blended with originals unique to this album.  I simply adore “You Can Close Your Eyes” sung with her children Ben and Sally Taylor – the harmony is amazing and beautiful.

For a sneak preview, you can check out a selection of songs Carly Simon’s official website for this album.

This is an album your family can enjoy for generations to come.

What We’re Listenting To – September

Please welcome back Jennifer with this month’s What We’re Listening To feature.

As September rolls around, and summer really feels like it’s coming to an end in many places throughout the world; many of us are starting to hear the buzz of a new school year beginning.  I don’t have school-age children, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve been a part of that back to school buzz personally, but I still love to get caught up in the nostalgia of a new school year, even if I have to do so vicariously through other people’s children or even a fresh box of crayons for our own home.

This month’s selection has a school-vibe to it that should get everyone in “back to school mode” whether someone in your family is going this month or not.  If you hear mention of the 3 R’s and you automatically think about Reading, Writing and Arithmetic then I’m afraid it’s definitely back to school for you!  Don’t worry you won’t have to pack a lunch, just pop some new tunes in your music player and learn that theses days the 3 R’s stand for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Jack Johnson

album_curiousgeorge_thumb.jpgYou’ll find this and other school-inspired songs on a delightful album by one of my favorite artists, Jack Johnson:  “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George.”  Even if you haven’t seen the film your family will love the singable songs on this album.  Your kids will learn without even realizing it when they’re singing about making friends, trying new things, sharing and of course recycling.  It brings a smile to my face when my son is singing Reduce, Reuse, Recycle with abandon!  Since it looks more and more like being environmentally aware is becoming a way of life for this generation, I love that we can get started reinforcing those ideas with our kids early and in such a fun way!

I absolutely have to recommend that you try out Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George (Jack Johnson)

The majority of the songs are for upbeat fun with a few tracks at the end that fit the lullaby theme, but not to any extreme that you can’t enjoy the whole album when you’re wide awake!  I encourage those parents who haven’t heard of this artist before, as you may find yourself pleasantly surprised and adopt one of your kid’s favorite musicians as your own.

Listening samples and a free video are available on Jack Johnson’s webpage for this album.

While you’re there, check out Banana Pancakes on “In Between Dreams” it’s another favorite in our house!

Please note that there is an Amazon affiliate link in this post.  Thank you!

What are you listening to with your kids?

What We’re Listening To – August 2009

music1Not long after we launched the What We’re Reading Series feature, SK reader Jennifer emailed to suggest a monthly feature on music that would inspire and delight the SK audience.  I thoroughly agreed that a feature like this would be wonderful, and so I am excited to launch the newest regular SK feature today: What We’re Listening To Monthly!

When I saw Megan’s recent call for book reviewers for “What We’re Reading Wednesdays” I was inspired to share our family’s love of good quality music through a monthly music review.  In our house, we are passionate about finding music the whole family can enjoy!  I’m always on the hunt for exceptional children’s music that won’t drive parents crazy.  Through my search we’ve managed to also expand our repertoire of what we’re listening to, and I wanted to do the same for you.  So with that, I would like to welcome you all to “What We’re Listening to Monthly.”

For my first month’s selection, I’m going to tempt your ears with some ABCs and 123s compliments of They Might Be Giants.  Some of you may remember this band from their success in the 80s and 90s on the alternative scene.  Since then, they have gained a whole new generation of fans with their entrance into the world of children’s music in 2002.  One of those fans happens to ride in the backseat of my car; singing along with catchy tunes like “Go for G!,” “The Vowel Family” and “Seven Days of the Week.”  Parents will enjoy the witty play on words and creative learning techniques for introducing letter and number concepts.  My personal favorite is “Alphabet Lost and Found” (and yes I can be found singing it without a child nearby).  I honestly never tire of listening to either of these albums; they’re fun, original, easy to listen to and well produced.  They also pass the extended family test—parents, children and grandparents can and will enjoy these songs together.

I also want to note that “Here Come the 123s” has a companion DVD, as well Friday Family Night Podcast by They Might Be Giants is listed on iTunes (it however only contains three episodes).  In fairness to my review, I wanted to disclose that we received “Here Come the 123s” as a gift and the companion videos were included.  While our family loves the music, I don’t particularly care for the video animation and would encourage anyone thinking of buying them to preview first to see if it suits your taste.

“Here Come the ABCs” and “Here Come the 123s” by They Might Be Giants are two award winning albums your family’s music collection shouldn’t be without.  Visit their “kid friendly” website GiantKid.net for a listening sample and to learn more.

Our monthly music reviewer, Jennifer, is a stay at home mom to a energetic, fun loving 2 1/2 year old boy who fancies finding music that connects her to the past & keeps her grounded in the present.  She can often be found dancing the 5 pm hour away in her living room.

image courtesy of shankar, shiv