Sweetly Sings The Donkey

arr. Paul Jennings

Some songs are just fun to sing, and this is one of them. And to make it even more fun, it is a round. Not content to just do the one verse the way you may have always heard it, we have done a properly strange set of verses, and will provide you with some suggestions on how to make this a lesson in creativity for your classes.

The Basic Tune - The "traditional" version of this tune is what you find here as the first verse. It is probably most distinctive because the "hee-haw" sung to the dropping perfect fifth actually sounds like a donkey. We encourage you to have your singers find even more of their "inner donkey" than you will hear on our recording. While we provide good vocal models, you can and should let your singers go ahead and "hee-haw" with a kick... some pun intended.

The recording actually features a fairly full orchestra, recorded with a comic flair: muted brass, banjo, string effects, and lots of wacky percussion. Since we are using multiple verses, we have designed the arrangement so that the tail end of the verse serves as a circular transition to the next verse. We give you four verses.

Our Menagerie - To the donkey, we have added a dolphin, a magpie, and the sadly extinct dodo. We chose these for their humor potential, and for the fact that each name has two syllables, making it easy to insert into the rhythm of the tune.

Again, your singers don't need to be too "polite" with their effects. "Glub-glub" can be less sung and more sounding like musical gargling, not unlike that great musical gargler from Spike Jones' band, Doodles Weaver. "Ack-ack" could be short and brittle noises... like a magpie. And the dodo should sound like a... donkey. Hey, he wasn't smart enough to keep from going extinct, so we are just guessing. Or something like that.

Create Your Own Menagerie - Here's a chance to let your kids explore their own silly sides. Keep the first verse the same, but then dream up your own verses two through four. You can stick with two-syllable words, or alter the rhythms in the tune to use any animal you like. Really encourage your kids to stretch. Here are a few possibilities to get you started:

  • Do just endangered animals, in celebration of Earth Day. (Go to Wikipedia and look up "endangered animals" and you will get a number of lists.)
  • Use animals from the kids' favorite movies or TV shows, even animals that exist only there.
  • Write verses for animals that aren't so easy to sing, like bats, whales, crickets, or maybe animals that make no sound at all, like sponges, turtles, or the dog breed, the Basenji. For any of these last animals, the singers could move their lips but not make a sound. Ham it up!

You get the idea - have fun with it! And by all means, let your menagerie have at it when the tune ends, stopping when you cut them off, of course.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.