Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Experience History Through Music - 3 Book w/CDs - Review

Yesterday, I told you a little bit about Diana Waring, the author of the Experience History Through Music books and CDs. If you somehow missed that, you can click here to read it. You can also read more about Diana and all of the great books she has written on her website: Diana Waring Presents! Today, I want to share with you our review of each of the three books available in the series. Our family has been a fan  of these books for a long time. Even though they just released, we have owned copies of the original books (& accompanying cassette tapes) for over a decade. Besides telling you about these wonderful books, and the catchy Folk Tale tunes on the CD's, I'll include a little bit about improvements between the original books and these new releases.

The picture below show our originals and the new releases! Yea for no more cassette tapes!

There are three books (w/ accompanying CD's) in this series. Westward Ho: The Heart of the Old West, Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and America: The Heart of a New Nation. For the period of this review (about a month) we received all three CD's, the printed Books of Westward Ho and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a PDF of the America book (because it was at the printers!) Each individual book retails for $18.99, but for the month of July, 2014, you can purchase a bundle with all 3 books & CDs for only $50.

Whether you love a good Folk Song, love the history behind songs, love history in general, or just want something unique for your family to listen to, I'm certain you will enjoy any of these books. As I'm writing, we are listening to the CD from Musical Memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Let's just start with this book shall we? Many, many of us and our children have read at least one of two (or all) of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. This book contains stories of the Ingalls family, photos of Laura and her family, drawings of Laura, photos of the historic sites where Laura lived, and photos of re-enactors from the DeSmet annual Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant. This book includes 13 songs (AND sheet music of the melody- which is all you really need for Folk Songs right?!) Many of the songs will be familiar to you like: Buffalo Gals, Sweet By and By, and Pop! Goes the Weasel. The joy of this book coming with a CD is hearing the songs you've always wondered about from Laura's books, like : Green Grows the Laurel and My Sabbath Home. For Little House fans, this book and CD set is a real treasure to increase your love and understanding of the life and music of the Ingalls family. For the rest of you. . .  how can you NOT like the Little House books? You'll love the variety of music from a simpler, but harder time. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived during years of hard work, long winters, and glorious summer days. Step back in time with us, give it a listen! "In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore."

The book Westward Ho: The Heart of the Old West focuses on Folk Songs that talk of our country's expansion westward from about 1820 through the 1920's. We live in such a connected/ internet world that we sometimes forget about how disconnected from their former lives the settlers were as they moved West. We begin this book with The Apple Picker's Reel. I'm pretty sure this one of Emily's new favorite, since I've heard her singing or whistling it almost every day for the past two weeks. It's a catchy tune. One of the important things to us (since the girls are both period re-enactors,) is knowing WHEN each song was written. While this song talks about apples, and the story in the book talks about the expansion of apples to the west coast, the song was not written until 1966. Thus, it's just for singing at home, not while the girls are in costume. 

The next song in the book, however,  Missionary's Farewell was sung at a wedding in 1836, so it would be fine for either Emily or Arlene to sing in costume since they re-enact 1836 and 1863. Arlene is looking forward to having more songs to sing in costume.

Also included in this book's 14 songs are ones you'll probably find familiar, like Home on the Range, and the Cowboy classics Chisolm Trail and Strawberry Roan. If you look at the Experience History Through Music page of Diana's website, you can see the complete song lists.

The third book in the series, America: The Heart of a New Nation includes 16 songs, most of which you'll recognize and want to sing along with from the beginning. Selection include favorites: Yankee Doodle, Star-Spangled Banner, Old Dan Tucker, She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain, and my personal favorite: All Night, All Day. What you may not already know are the stories behind these songs. While many have heard about Francis Scott Key's writing of the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, do you know the story behind how Yankee Doodle was turned from an insult into a song of victory? You can learn history, and economics, by reading about the Erie Canal, then sing the song on your next family hike to warn those behind you of low-hanging tree branches! These songs cover a lot of American history, and you can pick out just a few to focus on a particular time period, or learn them all and have a great repertoire of American Folk Songs. 

I want to spend a minute comparing the older versions of these books with the new releases, just in case you already own the originals and wonder if you should purchase the new ones. The answer is YES! I mean, really, these have CDs!!! To listen to the old cassette tapes I have to go out to my vehicle (because it has the only tape player that still works!) Also, these stories have been re-written. The main information covered hasn't changed much, but Diana's writing style had improved over the years and these new releases read more as stories to tell around a campfire than as a report. Also, the new typeface is easier to read. The HUGE improvement over the original books (other than CD vs. cassette) is the layout that places the additional verses across the layout from the sheet music, instead of on the back of the page. That way, the person playing the music isn't struggling with the rest of the family who want to move on to verse two!

Overall, these books are a real gem for any music teacher, family, summer camp or after-school program. We highly recommend them! These songs are appropriate for all ages, and the sheet music is simple (even I can play them!) If you think you have a favorite already picked out, click on over and order it now. . .if you're not sure, read through the page and the song listings and consider the bundle package of all three books with their CDs.

For those of you reading this on July 1, 2014, Diana is having a Facebook Release party tonight in co-operation with A Journey Through Learning. Join us for the fun from 8-10 p.m. EST tonight! You know we'll be there!

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