Thursday, January 24, 2013

Get Moving, Get Ella Jenkins

It's a mistake to listen to Ella Jenkins during dinner.

We listen to a lot of tunes while we eat. But the song and response engagement from "the First Lady of Children's music" is so strong that it almost overwhelmed the meal.

The CD in question is GET MOVING, a compilation being released in conjunction with first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program to get children to become more physically active.

Now in her incredible ninth decade of recording and performing, Miss Ella has an awards list too long to chronicle. Her legacy has become so important that she has graduated to a spot on Smithsonian Folkways, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, which seeks to enhance awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others.

The 15 songs on GET MOVING are meant to get kids on their feet and, in short, get moving. Activities are as simple as waving in "Hello" and jumping in "Jumping (with variations)." On "Teddy Bear," she has the kids skip around the room, which leads to a pretty chaotic finish, based on the audio.

Jenkins commands the kids' attention and directs them with long-tenured subtlety. There is no real music with "One Potato, Two Potato," instead it's rhythmic game instructions. With guitar and vocals, Jenkins has spent her life sharing musical styles from around the world. "Play Your Instruments" does not have motion per se, but it does allow children to perform with Ella and make pretty sounds.

It's the rare children's performer who remains relevant long enough to be subject of their own documentary. Ella Jenkins received that honor in 2007 with the release of "cELLAbration Live: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins." It's amazing to see (and hear) her continue to share her life's mission and music to a third generation of children.

GET MOVING is available through Smithsonian Folkways, Amazon, or iTunes.

Here is a video of Ella performing "I Know A City Called Okeechobee":

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