Today I want to talk about folk music. First, I love folk music. But when I first began my journey with Mason, I have to admit that this was one of the subjects that I questioned. I could understand hymns and classical music, but why would Mason include folk music? In fact, why would she include folk arts at all? I didn't understand why handcrafts were important, either. Weren't there more "meaty" subjects that children should be spending their time on?
Mason says very little in her volumes about music, other than telling us to teach singing and cultivate an appreciation for music. Why? Simply because it is delightful:
We are perceiving, too, that a human being is endowed with an ear attuned to harmony and melody, with a voice from which music may issue, hands whose delicate action may draw forth sounds in enthralling sequence. With the ancient Greeks, we begin to realise that music is a necessary part of education. (Philosophy of Education, p. 328-9)
Folk music: the music of the people. The folk music of any place or any time period gives us a unique glimpse of what the inhabitants of that place and time period celebrated, what they mourned, and what they hoped for. If classical music is of the head, and religious music is of the heart, folk music is of the hands--cracked and dirty hands. Hands that work, hands that love, and hands that are never too tired to pick up a guitar or a fiddle and tell a great story. If classical and religious music helps us focus on a higher plane, folk music keeps us firmly rooted in this one--the one where we walk and eat and play with our fellow creatures. Folk music--the people's music--brings people together and brings them joy. It can be the social conscience of a people, often playing an integral role in the kind of change that makes our world a better place to live. This past January, we lost a tremendous folk singer, Pete Seeger. Seeger was born in 1919 in Manhattan, New York, to a pair of classical musicians. His first instrument was a ukulele, but he is best known for his 5-string banjo, which was decorated with the following words: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender." With songs like 'If I Had a Hammer,' 'We Shall Overcome,' and 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone,' Seeger sang us through labor unrest, civil unrest, political unrest, and war, and we happily sang along. That was his favorite thing--to get folks to sing along. It's my favorite thing, too, and as I share a couple of Seeger songs, I hope you will join me in honoring this great American voice.