Village Songs

Website for composer/pianist Neal Kirkwood

Village Songs is a song cycle for children’s chorus and jazz ensemble composed by Neal Kirkwood. Commissioned by the National Dance Institute through the New York State New Music Fund, the piece is inspired by NDI’s collaboration with the Millenium Promise, and particularly their connection with the village of Potou in Senegal.

The lyrics of Village Songs were written by the 4th grade classes in New York City public schools P.S, 161 in the Bronx and P.S. 199 on Manhattan’s west side in response to questions from the children of Potou about their lives here. Village Songs shares musically aspects of the New York students lives and imagination, and so hopes to connect children from different parts of the world and foster understanding and appreciation of our common humanity.

Village Songs was performed by a children’s chorus, made up of students from both PS 161 in the Bronx and PS 199 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, as well as an 11-piece band of professional musicians. The ensemble shared their work at evening performances for each school, as well as for National Dance Institute students at LaGuardia High School.

When asked to describe the experience working on Village Songs and singing with the youth chorus, one child said,

“I loved it. I shall remember it for the rest of my life, from rehearsing to doing it. If I were an octopus, I’d give it 8 thumbs up.”

When speaking of the musicians, another said,

“I thought the music was great. It was no radio, it was real!”

“It was amazing they could make those wonderful sounds, I never heard live music.”

About working with the other school:

“I found it great to know new people and become friends. They made us sound great, and we were a team. It makes you feel good having people cheer for you.”

Village Songs. Lyrics

I. GREETING

Bon Jour, bon jour, cher amis
Bon jour, bon jour, cher amis
Bon jour, mes amis

II. MY LIFE

Every morning I get up
And I brush my teeth
And put on my clothes
And I fix my bed
And eat
And then take the train to school.

III. MORNING JOURNEY

On my way to school each day I see buildings as tall as a rain forest tree.
I see streets filled with cars
Cars speeding by in a hurry
Trees, dogs, cats, buses, bikes, and people
Birds, kids, cars, airplanes, bugs, and people
Buildings as tall as a rain forest tree
People from all different backgrounds
Walking down the street silently
When I walk to school I think deeply

On my way to school I see the beautiful sights of New York City
I see the sky
I see the river flowing
In time the flowers bloom
I see squirrels running up trees
Birds flapping their wings
Trees blowing in the breeze
Dogs playing in the streets
Ah my way to school is so beautiful.

IV. JAZZ PART 1

I really like jazz music. It always reminds me of streetlights reflecting
on the streets when it’s raining. It also reminds me of nightclubs with
girls in black flashy dresses. It completely changes my thoughts to
Manhattan scenes.

V. JAZZ PART 2

I’m in a jazz studio listening to people playing trumpets and pianos
suddenly the tuba joins making a weird noise then suddenly the scene
changes I’m walking through a Chinese pagoda looking at all the plants
and well-grown crops and beautiful animals surrounding me.

Hooray, I’m free in a magical beautiful world.

VI. FUN AND GAMES

Je veux vraiment connaitre tous le monde
I really want to know about you all
Est-que-tu l’aime la bas?
Do you like it there?
Je veux connaitre
I want to know
Si vous plait dit mois
Please tell me

Do ya do ya...baseball, soccer, singing, dancing
Eh eh eh ya ya I feel so happy
Eh eh eh ya ya I feel good
Basketball jump and shoot here you go
Just jump and shoot here you go
I really want to know about you all
Do you like it there?
I want to know
Please tell me

VII. THE AFRICAN SKY

The sky in Africa
is colorful like
the rainbow
But when it’s gray
it’s sometimes gloomy
but when we see
the glowing shades
of the sky again
Africa smiles and
fills with
joy.

VIII.CELEBRATION, PART 1

The wind blows
as we go
so why stop
moving?

IX. CELEBRATION, PART 2

Tiny drops of rain hit the floor
We hear the music play
We have a party and dance all night

Plip, plat
Jolly, jolly
Let’s be together for a long time
Dancin’ like jelly beans

X. ADIEU

Adieu, adieu, cher amis
Bon soir, bon soir, cher amis
Adieu, mes amis

XI. DREAMS

When I go to sleep at night I picture in my mind a more peaceful world
where everyone can be nice to each other.

When I go to bed I dream to go up to the sky
touch the moon or the stars if we could.