Monday, November 16, 2009

Echo Songs

While browsing in some books this evening, I came across a mention of "echo songs." I knew about call-and-response songs and songs with a chorus for participation, but I'd never heard the term echo songs before. I expect all of us have heard or sung one at some time, and I've even used a few in performances. But I never heard them called echo songs.

What is an echo song? It's a song where the audience repeats each line after the singer. For example, here is Bill Grogan's Goat:


There was a man
There was a man
Now please take note
Now please take note
There was a man
There was a man
Who had a goat
Who had a goat

He loved that goat
He loved that goat
Indeed he did
Indeed he did
He loved that goat
He loved that goat
Just like a kid
Just like a kid

One day that goat
One day that goat
Felt frisk and fine
Felt frisk and fine
Ate three red shirts
Ate three red shirts
Right off the line
Right off the line

The man, he grabbed
The man, he grabbed
Him by the back
Him by the back
And tied him to
And tied him to
A railroad track
A railroad track

Now, when that train
Now, when that train
Hove into sight
Hove into sight
That goat grew pale
That goat grew pale
And green with fright
And green with fright

He heaved a sigh
He heaved a sigh
As if in pain
As if in pain
Coughed up those shirts
Coughed up those shirts
And flagged the train!
And flagged the train!


Most of the echo songs I've found have been silly children's songs like this one--fun to sing and share. Princess Pat and Bear in Tennis Shoes are other examples of echo songs.


Echo songs are excellent for getting audiences of all ages to sing. They don't have to worry about knowing the words and most of the melodies are simple and easy to follow.

There are even books of echo songs, like this one on Amazon.

I have used the echo technique to teach a song or refrain to an audience. For example, when I sing the Swapping Song, the refrain is sung quickly: "with a whim-wham-whaddle, with-a-jack straw-straddle, and johnny's-got-his-fiddle and he's-gone-on-home." It's easy for the audience to sing each part of the refrain after me until I can see they have it; then we sing it together. You can find lyrics to the Swapping Song on Mudcat.

So what's the difference between this method and call-and-response? In call-and-response the audience is often calling back something different to the singer, as in Did you Feed My Cow?:


Did you feed my cow? (Yes, Ma-am)
Could you tell me how? (Yes, Ma-am)
What did you feed her? (Corn and Hay)
What did you feed her? (Corn and Hay)

Did you milk her good? (Yes, Ma-am)
Now did you milk her like you should? (Yes, Ma-am)
How did you milk her? (Squish, Squish, Squish)
How did you milk her? (Squish, Squish, Squish)


For a classic version of this song,you can go here to buy a download of the incomparable Ella Jenkins performing it. Call-and Response is a lot of fun to sing with audiences although they usually need to be taught their "part" in advance.

There are many websites with more songs like those I've mentioned. Three of the best I've found are:

Kididdles is one of the best online with hundreds of songs and lyrics.

Another good site is Bussongs, which claims to have the largest collection of children's music online.

The National Institute of Environmental Health maintains a healthy collection of children's music, complete with midi files so you can hear the melody.

5 comments:

DGranna said...

Sue, We must be musical sisters ! I grew up singing Bill Grogan's Goat with my sisters on car trips. Have no idea where we learned it... maybe in Brownies. We used to sing "Did You Feed My Cow" in Kindermusik classes. And I have many Ella Jenkins CDs. Love her ! Made me think of one echo song I sang to grandchildren at bedtime and they would echo till they fell asleep. "I'm Goin' To Leave....(echo)
Old Texas Now....
They've got no use....
For the Longhorn Cow..." etc. First singer holds the last word through the echo.

Granny Sue said...

How funny, DGranna! I suppose many american children learned the same ones. I know the goat one as a chant, not as a song and I would love to have the melody. I'm going to need to search online for it. I have never heard the I'm Goin' to Leave" song but it sounds like fun.

Cathy said...

I think that most kids love echo songs. My girls still sing echo songs that they learned in Girl Scouts.
You had asked about WVU. I graduated from WVU in Dec '85. I had transferred there from WVIT from their International Relations and Labor Studies there to History at WVU. I had planned on going to law school there and transferred my senior year to get the feel of the place. I ended up going into Public History in grad school but left before finishing up with my internship. It was between being with my grandmother who was dying and getting a Masters. I'm glad I spent my time with her. Family is everything.

Granny Sue said...

Since I was not a girl scout, I think I missed out on a lot of group singing possibilities in my childhood, Cathy. Our family sang around our campfires or on the porch, and of course in church. But some of the songs "everyone" knows, I don't! So I'm having a lot of fun as an adult finding and learning these songs that actually have more to them than meets the eye.

You made the right decision to be with your grandmother. That's something you won't regret.

Olivia Princess said...

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