Charlotte NC Elementary Music Teachers Workshop

Charlotte NC Elementary General Music Teachers’ Professional Development
Peter & Mary Alice Amidon •
Traditional Dance, Singing Games, Songs, Picture Books & Storytelling for K-2
Monday, August 20, 2018

Thanks to the many people who made this possible; particular thanks to Lisa Lashley and Crystal Briley for working with us both through the planning and once we arrived.

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The next section is a little about Mary Alice and me and our family.  That is followed by our  post-workshop notes.

MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Zara singing with the By the People Choir.

Stefan is the touring percussionist for The Devil Makes Three

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy”

Here is an Ode to Mary Alice I made for her on the occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary this summer.

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Your homework is to GO DANCING.  Here are some websites with information on dancing in greater Charlotte dances:

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My Heart Is Ready by Cindy Kallet, arr. P. & M.A. Amidon
Available in the Amidons Online Choral Store
and on their Twenty-five Anthems for Interfaith & Community Choirs book & companion CD.

Sun  Is In My Heart in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We find this to be comforting for both us and for the children.

Little Seed – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.
We love “the little wait…” in this fingerplay/song. 

      Seed in the Ground
 by Connie Kaldor
This is a great song for all ages sung, as written, unison with guitar or piano.  If you want to do it with your children’s choir you might consider my piano SSAA arrangement which, of course, can be done simply as a unison/piano arrangement.

      Chiney Doll
 traditional, on the Amidons’ Song in My Heart book & companion CD.
I introduced this with a story about Eliza, her mother and father, her grandmother, her baby brother, and the peddler.

Tree Songin NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and the best known  Appalachian dulcimer player in the country.  She is in the  greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance,  both for the children and for ourselves.  I introduced it with a story about Roger moving to Vermont in the 18th century, creating a farm, raising a family, and planting an apple orchard.

Eensy Weensy Spider traditional nursery rhyme
I showed how I dramatize this, miming and acting out the story with my hands: the spider, the water spout, the grumpy cloud and the sweet sun.

Humpty Dump traditional camp song
This is a great way to teach nursery rhymes to upper elementary children. We have the children recite the full nursery rhyme before sticking it into the song.

Now It’s Time to Go  by Peter Amidon, in our Song in My Heart book & CD.
We know some teachers who always sing this with their students at the end of a class or the end of the day.

Find your own favorite combinations of books and music, or books that have songs in them, more make up tunes to picture books of poems.  Here are the books Mary Alice led (see Picture Book Bibliography in handout)
     In the Fiddle Is a Song
When I Grow Up I Want to Be Me
Day Is Done

I’m Growing Up by Mary Alice Amidon
The stages of life. Children love singing this; parents are often moved by the song.

Kanji Joe From Margaret Read MacDonald’s Tuck Me In Tales.
Here’s the tune: “I laid five eggs long ago, by the Kanji river-o. I laid five eggs long ago,
Kanji Jo, Gebechi Jo, Kanji Jo, Gebechi Jo.”
I loved the way you acted this out!


act out Kanji Joe
You did a great job with this.  It is a wonderful creative activity to do with children of any age.  See the “Acting Out Stories” section of the handout.

Come Along Everybody in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We know music teachers who start their music classes with this singing game as the children enter the music classroom.

Riding Our Ponies  in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Sasha In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection.
A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’

Highland Gates in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
This is a great dance for opening a community dance. Folks can join in the dancing as they straggle in.

Old Brass Wagon in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
This can be an a cappella singing game, or, with the CD (or live music) a great early dance to instrumental music.  When Peter teaches it he walks through the figures first, and then says “Now just do whatever Mary Alice says,” and puts on the CD.

K-2 Blaydon Races Our version of the classic dance, original version in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD.
A1 and A2 are the same as in the handout.
B1: Do NOT pass right shoulders, but stay with partner and, still holding both partner’s hand, do a two hand turn. You can just do a long two hand turn to the left (CW) for 16 beats, or two hand turn left for 8 and back to the right for 8.
B2: “Open like a book”: let go of one of your partner’s hands so you are still holding “handy hand” and do a “handy-hand” promenade.

Kindergarten Reel in NEDM’s Listen to the Mockingbird
A great first partner-longways-dance-to-instrumental music for young children.  Send me an email and I will email you the mp3 for the music to Kindergarten Reel.  Of course you can play the music on anything; piano, French horn, recorder.  After doing this dance a few times you can put on any jig or reel and have them dance the Virginia Reel: really the same dance but start with: Forward and Back, right hand turn, two hand turn, dosido.

Sleeping Bunnies  in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We demonstrated this (Peter lying on the floor, then hopping like a rabbit). Young children love this singing game and will ask to do it over and over, partly because they love falling on the floor and getting up again.  Hunt the Cows, the singing game by Jean Ritchie in our Down in the Valley collection, also has children getting down and up from the floor.

Sam Sings Chiney Doll
Our son Sam Amidon (now 37), when he was two years old, would not sing Chiney Doll into Mary Alice’s tape recorder without telling the story that I’d always told him before singing the song. Storytelling is one of the great gifts we music teachers can give to our students, and a powerful teaching tool.

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Blaydon Races in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD.
You can use ‘Blaydon Races’ from NEDM’s 2010 Revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD for this. You can also use any jig or  reel medley for this dance. We did this is a mixer, but we had done the version for younger children without changing partners this morning. We often call this at weddings.  We always start  teaching this, as we do with any circle mixer, by having the dancers promenade and defining the gents/moons/peanut butter/inside partners and the ladies/stars/jelly/outside partners.

Traffic Jam learned from John Krumm
Use “Heel & Toe Polka” for music from “Chimes of Dunkirk” CD.
This is a terrific “scatter mixer” for any age; particularly for older students who do not have much dance experience.

Dance Teaching  Tips: Mittens; front of your mitten on the front of your neighbor’s mitten, thumb lightly on back; take hands drop hands take hands drop hands; posture; teach the forward separately  from the back in the forward and back; :shake and take” for teaching promenade; while promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent,  outside is the star/jelly/lady; four steps of making a circle from a  promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”; many ways of keeping the circle big and round on circle left and right; dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade; when music starts clapping the first of each 8 beats; doing the dance with your hands; “thick” calling, then “thin” calling then no calling; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

La Bastringue  In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD
This simple circle/partner dance can be easily adapted for younger children.  Have them circle left hold hands straight across, then “open like a book” into a promenade holding “handy hands” (gent’s right and lady’s left).

The Accordion is a great instrument for a music teacher, especially if you are leading a lot of dance.  The best store we know in the United States for the kind of smaller accordions like Mary Alice plays is The Button Box in Amherst, Massachusetts.

All thee of the below songs are in Amidons Song in My Heart book & companion CD.

      Martin Luther King
by Merle Gartrell
A simple celebration of an American hero.

      Brotherhood & Sisterhood

A song about celebrating our differences, and suggestions about what to do when you see bullying.


      Vote for Me
 by Rose Sanders
Children can lecture their parents with this song. Sung here by our two sons when they were sopranos.


Lucky Seven In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection
We used ‘The Coming Dawn’ from NEDM’s  Other Side of the TracksCD. The grand right & left exercises: First all promenade to determine inside/outside gent/lady or marshmellow/chocolate roles.  Then all face partner.  Ladies crouch while men weave around circle, starting on the inside. Then Men crouch and assist ladies as they weave around: right hand for outside, left hand assist for inside.  Then all stand and face center and do a stationary grand right and left just with the arms, counting up to seven.  Repeat that, but this time stepping in place (two steps per arm reach).  Then face partner and ‘repeat after me’ some of the rules: ‘I will not turn around, I will not go back…’ etc.  Tell them that it always takes seven times to get it right,  and make sure, when it doesn’t go right, that they all go back to where they started from (rather than trying to fix it in the middle of the grand right and left figure). Level one: Wait 8 beats on 2nd half of A2 music.   Level two: dosido partner on 2nd half of A2 music.

Find your own favorite combinations of books and music, or books that have songs in them, more make up tunes to picture books of poems.  Here are the books Mary Alice led (see Picture Book Bibliography in handout).
We All Went On Safari
with percussion and echoing number
Rap a Tap Tap
I Live in Music

      Marian Anderson
Mary Alice’s setting of the poem in this picture book is available on our Online Choral Store

Sir Gawaine & Lady Ragnell
This is a wonderful story for acting out with older elementary school students.

Choosing Partners We think it is a real gift to children to teach them  how to choose their own partners.  I like to frame this in ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ language to help the children get over their self consciousness over  choosing partners. I start with a story about how Kings and Queens realized that it might be more fun to dance with more than just their own spouses, and so they needed to devise a polite and efficient way to choose other partners.  “And the method they came up with was so good we still do it today.” I have them all practice the words: ‘May I please  have this dance?’ ‘Yes thank you.’ and then practice answering me, and then practice  asking me.  Then I demonstrate what it looks like to ask a partner to dance, by asking one of the ‘Queens’.  Then, I have that Queen sit down, and I ask her again, showing the 10 steps: The approach. Eye contact. The question. The answer. King puts out his hand. Queen stands and takes King’s hand. They hang on to each other’s hand and walk to the top of the hall.  If there are  two Queens then there is a Queen on one side and a Queen on the other side.  If there are two Kings (you know the rest). If it is a King and a Queen, the King stands on the King’s side, the Queen on the Queen’s side and they face each other, nose, toes and bellybutton, taking two hands. Then they drop their hands, and, voila, there they are.

Kings and Queens In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection
We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance.  You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay  the Donut’ CD. Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be.  Then I “dub” each child a  king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance (e.g. dances done in Jane Austen’s time).

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s  Sashay the Donut collection.
Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. This is a wonderful dance for a wedding  where you can do it the original way we learned it, doing  a short waltz instead of the two hand turn.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  Here are some tips to for teaching this dance:
Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “posts” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”.
All look at partner and say “goodbye”.
Posts stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure.
Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Post” does with their left hand neighbor, from left to right.
Once the dancers get that twirl, the rest of the dance can go pretty smoothly.

      Now It’s Time to Go
 by Peter Amidon
Sung here by our son Sam Amidon when he was six.

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Once again, thanks to Lisa and Crystal and everyone who helped make this a terrific visit for us.

Keep on singing, dancing & telling stories!


Peter (and Mary Alice)