Traditional singer, Aileen Lambert, is the creative force behind a new book of traditional Irish songs in English – especially selected for children. The fourteen songs featured in the book are not only accompanied by the stories behind the songs but also a range of complementary activities including music notation, word searches and a crossword. The book is also beautifully illustrated by Liza Kavanagh, who has known Aileen since they were art students together.
“From tall tales of amazing adventures to nonsense songs they have proven themselves as appealing songs to engage young singers,” noted Aileen drawing on her experience as a music educator – working with children around Ireland for over fifteen years. As a creative associate on the Arts Council-supported Creative Schools programme Aileen recognises the value of songs in the primary school curriculum – not only in terms of arts education but also in contributing to other subject areas like social and environmental studies. So the book includes ideas for primary school teachers on how to integrate the songs into various areas of the curriculum.
“From my many years of delivering some workshops with children I know the questions they have about the song,” added Aileen, “like ‘what does that word mean?’ or ‘did that really happen?’ So alongside each song there are little bubbles which explain the meaning of old words.” There are also bubbles giving some background to the songs or suggesting a creative activity inspired by them.
The book project was supported by an Artlinks bursary Deis award from the Arts Council, as well as Kildare County Council Art Services and the Arts Department of Wexford County Council.
The book also includes links to a complementary YouTube playlist and for each song there is an excellent video featuring Aileen singing the songs with her own young daughters Nellie, Eppie and Nan. The videos have all been made since the onset of the pandemic when Aileen’s direct work with schools was replaced by commissions from various county councils to create seventeen online traditional song workshops for children as part of Cruinniú na nÓg Programmes in 2020 and 2021.
Aileen’s book has won plaudits from artists like Christy Moore and Martin Hayes. Christy Moore commented: “I’ve been listening to and learning folk songs all my life – they have been my inspiration. With this great little publication Aileen is bringing these old songs to new ears and voices,” while Martin Hayes was reminded of his own childhood in East Clare: “When we had extended family gatherings all of us children loved to get my father to sing The Frog and the Mouse. I’m delighted that a whole new generation of children will get to hear and learn this song along with many other songs that are part of this beautiful collection.”
To order The Frog and the Mouse online, go to www.aileenlambert.com. It costs €15 plus postage and packing. The books are also available in many good bookshops.
Aileen has delivered workshops in primary schools as part of the Heritage-in-Schools Scheme and Music Generation Wexford. Aileen regularly presents childrens’ workshops in libraries and festivals. She also devises and facilitates local community traditional song research and performance projects, which have often culminated in publications with accompanying DVDs/CDs.
With her husband Michael Fortune she conducts innovative song research and composition projects with renowned traditional singers in association with partners such as the National Library, the Irish Traditional Music Archive and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, such as The 1916 Song Project, The Bird Song Project, As I Roved Out and Songs for Our Children. In 2019 she recorded a solo album of traditional unaccompanied songs from Wexford and Newfoundland entitled The Wexford Lovers.