I Bought Me A Cat

arr. Paul Jennings

This wonderful old children's song has long been a favorite, and it has been used by folk artists, children's performers, and composers, notably Aaron Copland, who used it in his work, Old American Songs. It is a cumulative song, not unlike "Old MacDonald," adding on all previous animals to each that has already been sung about.

We find that children who haven't performed the song enjoy the fact that the sounds used for each animal are different than what they may be used to. There can be a couple of lessons that grow from this, beginning with asking them what they think the sounds should be. (Feel free to change any sound to adapt the song for your own needs.) You might also discuss the fact that children all over the world use different sounds for these animals. For instance, while a hen might go "cluck, cluck" (or "chipsy, chipsy") in English, in German, it goes "tock, tock." In French, it goes "cotcotcodet." In Japanese, it may be "ko-ko-ko-ko," while in Spanish, it might be "ca-ca ra-ca." You or your students can easily research each animal on the web, or you can go to one of the sites we will offer you in our links for this issue.

For this arrangement, we decided to go with seven animals, but if you are playing the piano accompaniment, which isn't too difficult, you can add or subtract at will. You will note on our accompaniment recording we have assembled a little turn of the century theater orchestra. (That's the turn into the 20th century.) You'll hear a simple rhythm section with banjo as well as strings and simply set winds.

To further help you bring the song to life, Kristyn Johnson has created another one of her neat videos to go along with it. Be sure to check it out at our web site. (See details in the box on page 63.)

One aspect of this song may be new to some students: There is a use of mixed meters. In general, the song is in 2/4, but when it gets to the bar that has the animal sounds, it is in 3/4. We find that when teaching this, letting it feel natural to the students makes it easier for them to absorb. Listening to the relaxed transition on the recording is a good start, then discussing it academically with them should make it no big deal. You might even let them conduct it with you, again, keeping it simple and unthreatening.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.