The writer par excellence of perfect little art songs for the under 12's is Peter Jenkyns. My concert announcers are always sure of having to tell an eager audience that young X will be singing another song by Mr J, and the listeners are assured of a delightful gem, perfectly composed for small and slight voices, and a sweet story centred around a naughty tiny rodent, a sad snowman or some ferociously protective parent owls !
This week I have given three songs out to my pre teen pupils, and highly delighted they all were with these gorgeous little jewels.
The Owls was a hit with a small girl of 10, who really liked the slightly spooky To Whoo's, and the especially strong words of the poem when he talks about 'The murderer foul, the hunting owl.....', yummy minor key and lots of consonants!
The second was to a smaller girl who had her very first PJ song. I most often choose The Toy Soldier for first timers, it is simple, in a great key for small voices, all topped off with a smart military marching beat. She thought it was wonderful, and SO grown up!
The third was one of my favourites. Percy the Porcupine, like the last song, from a little collection of songs called Fancy Fair. Percy never fails to engage and delight little singers. It has a lilting 6/8 beat, and such a joyful melody, combined with witty words, which even the youngest singer finds funny. Little J who was given Percy today, laughed out loud at the words, and left her lesson with the broadest grin.
Quite what a classical singing teacher would do without Peter Jenkyns songs I don't know! So much which is supposedly composed for youngsters under 12 is so very wrong for delicate voices, so often set to inappropriate words, even, I am sad to say, with innuendo in the text, and, it seems to me, all in the vain hope of being cool, and appealing to the already too fast developing and overly exposed babes.
I have tried in vain to google Peter Jenkyns, and all I have managed to find out is that his dates are 1921 - 1996 and he was Canadian. Well - even that seems a bit iffy ! I am slightly astonished that a man whose compositions are staples of the concert world and all the examination boards has no trace of a life when one follows the usually successful sleuthing via the google digital detective agency !
Somebody somewhere must know who he is, and something about him, but sadly it is not yours truly. However, his monumental legacy is in his beautiful songs which make children smile, and give them their first taste of the Art Song. Can't be bad I think.
Rock on PJ, we love you.
This MUST be Percy don't you think?!