Star the seventeenth

I’m creating a virtual star chart, to record my progress in Dry July. The star for making it through Saturday 17 July without touching the demon drink is “Twinkle, twinkle little star.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons

(Description: simple music for Twinkle Twinkle, in C major, with words written underneath the music)

When my girls were little babies, I sang lots of action songs to them, including this old favourite. It’s such a simple thing to do, and they enjoyed it so much. I recall taking my younger daughters outside and laying them on a rug under a tree, and singing Twinkle twinkle, complete with actions. They were enthralled. I had a repertoire of action songs, including The Wheels on the Bus, and Three Little Speckled Frogs, and my favourite, Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree, which in my version is mostly recited, rather than sung.

Five little monkeys sitting in a tree
Show left hand with five “monkeys” (fingers)
Teasing Mr Crocodile, “You can’t catch me, can’t catch me.”
Wave left hand about in teasing fashion
Along comes Mr Crocodile, hungry as can be
Right hand comes along, using fingers and thumb to make a snapping action
Right hand snaps one of the “monkeys”
Four little monkeys sitting in a tree
Show left hand with four “monkeys”

I usually sing “You can’t catch me, can’t catch me” on three notes: D, E, C, or A, B, G, or F#, G#, E, or whatever. The rhythm and intonation is reminiscent of a teasing, “Na na na na na.” I think I liked this song so much because its macabre humour is such a pleasant change from the usual sap of nursery rhymes.

And having said that my babies were enthralled by my singing, they were also enthralled by watching me do housework. I used to tote them around the house, settle them in their bouncinettes, and chatter away to them as I swept the floor, or cleaned the bath, or folded the washing. They were a very uncritical audience.

The music for “Twinkle Twinkle” comes from a French folk song, “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman”.

Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman,
Ce qui cause mon tourment.
Papa veut que je raisonne,
Comme une grande personne.
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.

…which I translate roughly as:

Oh! I will tell you, Mama
What is causing my torment.
Papa wants me to give reasons
Like a big person (grown-up)
As for me, I say that sweets
Are valued more (are better) than reason.

Famously, Mozart used the tune as the basis of his Twelve Variations on “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman”. I like variations 5, 8 and 11 best.

I have the music floating around somewhere. I must learn to play some of them… the easy ones!


3 responses to “Star the seventeenth

  1. Thank you for posting that charming version of ‘Ah, vous dirai-je’ (and for the rest of your charming post too).
    I’m very fond of themes with variations – do you know Brahms’ Op 56a ‘Variations on a theme of Haydn’? We did it for 6th form music way back when, and it’s still one of my favourite pieces ever. (I had a brief search for a nice version on YouTube to link to, but after finding several very ordinary versions I gave up).

  2. I liked that version because it comes with the music, so I could see as well as hear the variations. Yes, I love that Brahms’ piece too. I’m a bit of a sucker for variations on a theme: the 4th movement of The Trout is great fun.

  3. And the Goldberg Variations! I have the version by Glenn Gould (a very idiosyncratic but wonderful Canadian pianist) and it is glorious.