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  • Writer's pictureSheena at Playsongs

Playsongs at work

The best fun I've ever had in making songbooks and audio for children has been through the collaborations. Take audio. For a brief moment in time, a wonderfully creative and talented band of musicians come together in a studio with a collection of instruments and sound makers ~ from guitars to guiros, agogo bells to xylophones ~ and make music.

One of my first lessons as a junior music editor of songbooks for schools was that a big gap exists between a song, which is written in dots and lines on a printed page, and a song, which we hear in the air. The former gets into our brains through our eyes, the latter gets into our heads through our ears. That may seem obvious. But try it. It's a weight-lifting exercise to heft the former off the page and release it into the air. But catching a song already in the air ~ through our ears ~ is well nigh effortless.

So, as a junior music editor back in the late seventies, knowing that I had this weight-lifting barrier between my books and my customers, the use of audio formats was a gift. (Thank you, audio technology, for giving me LPs, cassettes, CDs, and later, mp3s, and streaming to play with.)

With audio formats attached to our books, non-music readers could access our songs. They didn't need to read music. And music readers didn't have to go through a process of interpretation to 'get' the song - its pace, style, character, mood, emotion, dynamic, joy.

To get back to Playsongs at work, and my enormous enjoyment in being part of it... The collaboration of that band of musicians is what's doing the lifting off the page for me so that I

can pass the songs on to you, my Playsongs customers. I fix the sessions with the studio and the musicians. I supply the written music and words in advance. On the day I explain the intention and use of each song and I sing it as best I can to give them an idea of how I want it to go, and then I sit in the control room, next to the sound engineer, listening to these musicians making the most fantastic musical magic. It seems spontaneous and indeed it can all come together really rapidly, but that's the years of practice they've put in to being great musicians. Thank you ~ all of you ~ for today and all the other days we've played together. It's fun.

These last recording days, we've been working on Grand Playsongs, three new collections of songs and rhymes for babies and toddlers. They're for everyone to use but we've got grandparents particularly in mind.

Kevin Graal is a storyteller who brings his storytelling skills into his singing. Here he's singing one of the Greek songs he taught us. You'll find it in Playsongs Grand Exercise (coming later in 2020). It's Kevin's voice you hear performing the Playsongs movie rhymes ( Kevin's site will fill you in on all his work:

Kaye Umansky is pictured here listening back to one of her rhymes she's just recorded. Kaye (all-time Playsongs favourite: 'Let's eat an apple, Let's eat a plum, Let's blow a raspberry on your TUM!') is a best-selling children's author, and she has written a grand clutch of new rhymes to get everyone giggling through the Grand new Playsongs titles. Find out more about Kaye's work here:

Debbie Sanders pictured singing the stern 'Gramma say no play, this is a work day' brings her vitality and energy to the songs ~ and her tenderness as she sings 'Kokoleoko' gently to rouse a sleepy baby from a nap (Playsongs Grand Day Out). Debbie is a singer-songwriter (we love her Jazz Cat animation on You Tube ) Find out more about Debbie's work at

All of these recent sessions have been underpinned by Steve Grocott's multi-instrumental talents. Steve is a song-writer, early years music educator, musician and member of the Drones. He has written three grand songs for our new collections, among them a most beautiful song for Grand Sleepover.

It's called Become You and you'll be able to hear it here later in 2020. Find out more about his work here:

Steve works in under-fives settings, facilitating musical happenings. And while he's not being an educator, Drones member, song-writer, and multi-instrumentalist, he's being a multi-grandad.

None of the above recording sessions would work, literally, without the sound engineer, Stephen Chadwick, composer, song-writer, music educator and sound engineer with years of experience, patience and quiet enablement of good recording sessions. His beautifully understated, and often hilarious music accompanies the Playsongs rhyme movies on this site:

Playsongs is deeply appreciative of his support and work over many years. Stephen's own site is here:

There are many more days of fun to follow. Playsongs at Work Part 2 Audio will come to you from Sheffield in March when Sandra Kerr, Janet Russell, Nancy Kerr and James Fagin all get to work on Grand Playsongs. That'll be fun. .-)

Photos of Debbie and Steve by Aki:


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