Sing a Song for All Living Things
Crabs tumble from a wooden basket and, along with colorful musical notes, scuttle off into dark blue water and turquoise sky. The cover of Singing the Chesapeake welcomes nature lovers young and old into the world of the late Tom Wisner, environmental educator and musician. Everything about this collection of children’s songs from the Bard of the Chesapeake is bright, sunny and magical.
Wisner made it his mission to celebrate the rivers that feed the Bay and all the plants and animals native to the Chesapeake watershed. All of nature sang to him.
The CD that accompanies the book will have you singing along to songs that will bring back memories of hootenannies and campfires. Wisner’s music demands foot tapping, head nodding and hand clapping. True to folk tradition, the music relies on simple instruments and natural background noises: guitar, banjo, recorder, seagull cries, rainstorm and thunder.
Wisner penned the words and music for most of the 26 songs in the collection. Son Mark Wisner, musical collaborators Teresa Whitaker and Frank Schwartz and Bay watermen also contributed to the project.
Wisner used personification to teach children empathy with plants and animals. So he wonders, “How Does It Feel to Be a Fish?” and imagines, “If I were a bird, huddlin’ on a wire … If I was a potato snugglin’ in the ground.” Wisner takes on the role of a crab in “Dance Sideways”:
Listen all you Sallys and Sooks.
I got some information that ain’t in any books
When they bring a net you’d better dance with all you got
If you don’t do some dancin’ they gonna put you in a pot.
This book is another chapter in the legacy of “Chesapeake Born” Tom Wisner.