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Move over, Raffi! Catholic sisters release delightful children’s folk album


Emma Rolf Photography via Roundaboutfolk | Instagram | Fair Use

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 06/06/19

These charming, classic tunes will have the whole family singing along.

Listening to the new children’s album Singsong Pennywhistle, it’s almost impossible to believe it was recorded in just two days, and with only two days of practicing in advance. But that’s the kind of magic that happens when Emma and Cecilia Black are at the microphone.

The sisters grew up in Michigan in a homeschooling family of seven children and attended Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts. Despite no formal musical training, the sisters had many opportunities to hone their talents, thanks to the strong culture of folk music in their family.

“It’s wonderful to have a song to suit any occasion,” especially for passing the time during long car rides or chores, Cecilia said, “and much of family life is bound up in these daily tasks!”

They met their accompanist, Ben-David Warner, at a Christmas caroling party some years ago. Together, their musical group is called Roundabout. Because he lives 13 hours away from them, in Virginia, the trio had to move at lightning speed to record the album.

“We hit it off because of our similar folk music culture within our families,” Emma said. “It seemed only natural to ask him to accompany us on our album and we were so excited when he agreed to it!”

Music and singing are integral parts of building a strong family culture, the sisters said.

Thea Walsh Photography

“Singing bonds people!” Emma said. She shared the example of students who perform in a musical together and feel that they have experienced “the bond of a lifetime with their fellow singers.”

Folk music, in particular, allows people of all ages to join in, from Grandma and Grandpa down to the tiniest toddler. More than that, though, folk music is timeless and universal, bringing down through the ages the words and cultural wisdom of generations past.

These traditional songs “express enduring human emotions and experiences, from loss to hilarity to tragedy,” said Cecilia.

Folk songs offer a great introduction to music for the youngest children, as they tend to be lighthearted and repetitive, making them fun to sing and easy to memorize.

“Singing folk music is a wonderful foundation for nobler music to build on,” said Cecilia.

Emma and Cecilia chose not to share any original music on the CD, instead using it as an opportunity to share the joy of traditional folk music with children today. The album was specifically aimed at families with young children.

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A post shared by Roundabout (@roundaboutfolk)

“We wanted our first collection to be the sort of music you’d listen to in the car or while running around the dining room table,” Cecilia said. A key factor in deciding which songs to keep was “keeping parental sanity in mind.”

“Most of the songs are in the fast and cheerful genre,” Emma agreed.

Although most of the songs are not explicitly Christian, the sisters’ Catholic faith played a key role in the making of the album.

“St. Cecilia and St. Nicholas both had their hands in this CD,” Emma said.

Emma and Cecilia hope to make more albums in the future, particularly a lullaby album for bedtime. There are certainly plenty of classic folk songs from which they can choose.

“It was really hard to cut so many songs!” Cecilia said.

Finally, in full disclosure, I have three children under age 5, and I purchased the CD for them 3 months ago. We have listened to it almost every day since, and I have yet to tire of it. I’m not sure there can be a stronger endorsement!

Singsong Pennywhistle is available to purchase at Amazon, GooglePlayMusic, cdbaby, and iTunes.

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