A Bunch Of Animals

by Tom & Lynn Crowell

With this neat and clever cross curricular tune, we would like to introduce you to our newest writers, Tom and Lynn Crowell. They are both long time Plankers and talented musicians, and we are delighted to have them aboard. Welcome, you two! Following are their notes for "A Bunch Of Animals."

"A hurtle of sheep? Are you sure? I thought sheep were part of a herd!" Yes, we're sure, and yes, you're right, too! The collective group names of the animals are not limited to one type of animal. In fact, some animals could easily have five or more different collective group names that would all be correct. This could become a great cross curricular lesson for your students. They could learn about animals that make up herds one day, flocks another, packs another, and so on. If you want to go a different direction, you could get into the details about the group names. Litters are mentioned for newborn/very young animals. A drove is less chaotic than a herd, but it's probably just big enough that one could lose control of the animals… unless you have a trained Border Collie!

Doing the research for the lyrics was quite enjoyable. Some of the fun ones that we couldn't fit into the song include: a crash of rhinos, a paddling of ducks, a pride of lions, an ambush of tigers, a cackle of hyenas, a stand of flamingoes, a mask of raccoons, a tower of giraffes, and even a crash of hippos. If your students mix up the lyrics, you can really blow their minds by telling them that the collective term for elephants is a memory! In your lesson, you could even talk about group names for different types of people. For example: a congregation of people, a rash of dermatologists, a convulsion of belly dancers, a number or set of mathematicians, a troupe of performers, a ponder of philosophers, and a crew of sailors. And be sure to leave your students with a "groaner" by saying that your favorite collective noun is a battery of tests!

The style of this song is a jazz shuffle and it resembles Gypsy Jazz, or as the French call it, Jazz Manouche. (The English translation of manouche is gypsy.) The base of the feel is driving acoustic guitar strums. On top of that would be acoustic guitar licks and tasteful improvised passages. (In our case, the always amazing Sandy Williams provided the whimsical noodling.) Usually, the tempo for a style like this might be pretty fast. However, we did slow it down so your students didn't end up with their tongues in knots from trying to get all those lyrics sung in time. Speaking of the lyrics, we recommend that you do a vocal warm-up before singing this song to help students enunciate without losing the natural flow of the piece.

If the lyrics seem overwhelming to some of your students, perhaps you could learn one verse per rehearsal. With all the repetition, you could just repeat the same verse with the refrain breaking it up each time. If it's still too much for your students, you could divide your choir up into groups, letting each group learn just one verse. You could also assign solos, or have the older students sing the verses while the young ones are in charge of the refrain.

At the end of the song, we have indicated that students can make their own animal noises freely. You don't have to do this, but the kids seem to enjoy it!

If you use this in performance, don't forget to let your students wear animal ears, face paint, or costumes. This song was meant to be fun while sneaking in some fun facts for both young and old!

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.