There is a wealth of young children’s songs of the silly kind that could well liven up a party or a long car journey –
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
I went to the animal fair
You’re a pink toothbrush
There’s a hole in my bucket
If you would like a challenge, try The Rattlin’ Bog – an Irish traditional version of The Tree In The Wood. (There are some good celtic versions on YouTube.)
For older children (and adults) with an interest in performing, comedy songs give an opportunity to show off, or polish up, your acting ability. They require a degree of production, but are useful repertoire to lighten a concert programme. All the world loves to laugh!
The Gas Man Cometh, The Weather Song, The Hippopotamus Song or Transport of Delight by Flanders and Swann are an excellent start.
Camp Granada or Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (1963, words by Alan Sherman, set to Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours), will resonate with anyone who has ever been homesick or tried a weekend camping in the rain.
Slightly more sophisticated is I’m Just An Old Fashioned Girl (words and music by Marvin A. Fisher, 1956) – don’t miss Eartha Kitt’s wonderful performance of it on YouTube:
I’m just an old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind
Not sophisticated, I’m the sweet and simple kind
I want an old fashioned house, with an old fashioned fence
And an old fashioned millionaire
My Old Man’s A Dustman (1960, Lonnie Donnegan) from the era of skiffle music, is a good ‘laugh out loud’ song in the old Music Hall tradition. Here is a short excerpt:
Now here’s a little story
To tell it is a must
About an unsung hero
That moves away your dust
Some people make a fortune
Other’s earn a mint
My old man don’t earn much
In fact… he’s flippin’… skint
Oh, my old man’s a dustman
He wears a dustman’s hat
He wears cor blimey trousers
And he lives in a council flat
He looks a proper narner
In his great big hob-nailed boots
He’s got such a job to pull ’em up
That he calls them daisy roots
I say, I say Duncan
I ‘er… I found a police dog in my dustbin
(How do you know he’s a police dog)
He had a policeman with him…
If you are looking for something pre-1910, some possibilities are early Music Hall songs: The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze, When Father Papered The Parlour, O Mr. Porter, Waiting At The Church, Where Did You Get That Hat or Pretty Polly Perkins Of Paddington Green.
For boys, or girls dressed up as boys, I’m Following In Father’s Footsteps or Burlington Bertie From Bow go down well. (They were originally made famous by male impersonator, Vesta Tilley, so can be sung by either sex, appropriately dressed!)
Comedy songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas take a fair degree of skill, but are worth the effort – the Policeman’s Song from Pirates Of Penzance is a good start. ‘I am the very model of a Modern Major General’ from the same operetta is excellent practice for good diction and provides a wealth of unusual vocabulary to learn! Sir Gerald Porter’s song from Pinafore is not quite so challenging, but equally funny.
Pre-war repertoire would include Gershwin’s The Jolly Tar and the Milkmaid, Irving Berlin’s Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better (a duet, of course), Ivor Novello’s And Her Mother Came Too, Noel Coward ‘s Mad Dogs And Englishmen (1932). (Noel Coward’s humour is often not easily understood by modern public – so you can have fun re-writing the words of songs such as That Is The End Of The News to bring the songs up-to-date.)
We also have some wonderful Gracie Fields songs – I Took My Harp To A Party (words and music by Noel Gay, 1934), The Teddy Bear’s Picnic (1932 – words written by Jimmy Kennedy to an earlier tune written in 1907 by Walter Bratton)
More recent songs would include Hakuna Matata from Lion King, Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast), Popular (Wicked), Happy Working Song (Enchanted), or you could try Joyce the Librarian by Richard Stilgoe.
So bring on the smiles and have fun!
Guest Blog by Marion Shuster
BA hons (Cambridge) LRSM
Marion Shuster has been teaching music, conducting and performing locally for over 30 years. She currently has two choirs based in East Grinstead, the Greenstede Singers and Choirpower, as well as a busy teaching schedule.