________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006


Canada is for Kids: Volume 3.

Michael Mitchell.
Victoria, BC: MKM Music Productions, 2005.
1 Audio-CD, 40 min., $15.00.

Kindergarten-grade 6 / Ages 6-11.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***½ /4

Hurray for Canada, and hurray for Michael Mitchell, whose third volume of Canada is for Kids is now out. Once again Mitchell, a gifted musician and storyteller who takes his shows to elementary schools all over the country, has come up with another fine collection of traditional and original songs. One of the winners on this recording of 13 pieces features the singer's distinctly Canadian version of the traditional "Donkey Riding" song, ending with a verse


Were you ever way out west,

where the wheat grows to your chest

and the sunsets are the best,

riding on a donkey.


     Ballads (including jaunty renditions of French Canadian folktunes "Les Raftsmen" and "Ah! Si Mon Moine Voulait Danse”), a cheeky railroad song from B.C. ("The Kettle Valley Line") and a poignant lyrical rendition of a song about the hardships of farming in North Ontario ("Fields of Ice and Snow") make up the traditional component of the CD. The remaining eight songs were written and composed either by Michael Mitchell, himself, or in collaboration with talented musician Michael Becker. Mitchell claims on the jacket notes that Becker "is the real musical and technical genius behind the recording project."

     The first tune, "I Like Walking in the Woods," a cheery up-beat song about the joys of strolling in the forest, has recently been nominated for an International Songwriting award. Along with two other original pieces, "Ratatat-tat" and "Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall," it celebrates one of Mitchell's favourite themes; that of appreciating and learning from nature.

     “Come to Canada" is a very different sort of piece. Composed by Mitchell and Becker, it is introduced in the notes as follows: "Canada is a land of immigrants. It is a unique characteristic of being Canadian that we all share." Sung in a minor key with oriental sounding instrumental accompaniment, the verses have lonely, longing feel. The chorus, on the other hand, ("Come to Canada,/Safe and free for everyone, This is Canada, O Canada, our home.") is as perky as it is patriotic.

     "Tell us a Story or Two" and "Big Wet Rodent Day" are two humourous, rollicking numbers, the latter sung with the help of an Edmonton children's school choir. Both songs are performed with much enthusiasm and added gusto provided by an assortment of voices and musical instruments, including the kazoo.

     Mitchell has based two of his ballads on recent Canadian history. In "The Alberta Newfoundlander," he sings of the exodus of Newfoundland fishermen to the oil fields of Fort McMurray. According to the song, the transplanted men are not homesick out there in Alberta, because "There's 10,000 Newfies making money by the ton." "Let 'em Run" celebrates the running of the annual Yukon Quest, with a chorus that echoes the relentless rhythm of the famous dog sled race.

     Although there is no music book to accompany Volume 3 of Canada is for Kids, Mitchell assures fans that a Big Canadian Music Book containing the music charts for all 40 songs will soon be published. Teachers, parents and librarians should not miss the opportunity to add this third volume in Mitchell's collection of truly Canadian songs to their collections. If by any chance the first two CD's have been missed, information on ordering any of Michael Mitchell's educational materials can be obtained at: MKM Music Productions Ltd. Victoria, B.C. (205) 658-3405, www.michael-mitchell.ca.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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