Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 3. October 1996. Page 5.

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Glimpses From the Road

Putting Poetry to Music

I often work with teachers and librarians on the road with children's literature and usually include a brief interplay with poetry. I remind my listeners that you can get funny results from setting poetry to music, especially if you make strange partners such as Emily Dickenson's poetry set to "Yellow Rose of Texas" or the theme from Gilligan's Island, and Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" sung to "Hernando's Hideaway".

I then put Richard Armour's poem "Pachycephalosaurus" on the overhead. (You can find it in Beatrice deRegniers' anthology Sing a Song of Popcorn, published by Scholastic.) This multi-verse poem about one of the later dinosaurs is funny even when read aloud, but is much funnier when sung to a variety of tunes.

Recently, in Salt Lake City, I lead them through each verse as we used "Yankee Doodle" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" for our tunes. When we got to the last two verses, I said, as I usually do, that these are particularly moving if sung to the tune of "America the Beautiful". I always encourage the audience to use harmony and gusto as we sing it together and I usually get a few souls who try for the harmony and most people will be good sports enough to sing it with me. In Salt Lake City, however, I got four part harmony. "Pachycephalosaurus" sung to the tune of "America the Beautiful" by people who sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Gusto indeed!

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