For kids they sing

Chico folk musicians record CD of children’s songs to benefit Kids and Creeks

A sampling of Chico’s acoustic players circle up alongside Big Chico Creek. From left: Jeb Draper, Melissa Patterson, Archibald, Stuart Illson, Mandy Sherman and Scott Itamura.

A sampling of Chico’s acoustic players circle up alongside Big Chico Creek. From left: Jeb Draper, Melissa Patterson, Archibald, Stuart Illson, Mandy Sherman and Scott Itamura.

Photo By Jason cassidy

Kids and Creeks benefit and CD-release party for Songs for All Big and Small compilation, Sunday, June 12, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at Chico Women’s Club. No cover (donations accepted); CDs for $15.
Chico Women’s Club
592 E. Third St.

“I came up with the idea over spring break because I was homesick,” said Melissa Patterson of the inspiration for Children’s Songs for All Big and Small, a compilation album benefiting local educational organization Kids and Creeks.

“I have two nephews and a niece and decided I should know songs to sing to them,” continued Patterson—whose nickname, “Texas,” comes from her home state. “I started learning some kids songs and then writing some over break. Then I thought, ‘I should do a kids album, but I don’t have enough material, I need to get all my friends in on this.’”

The project is a perfect fit for Patterson, who splits her time between teaching plant sciences at Butte College and playing fiddle and cello with the Poa Porch Band. She immediately began recruiting volunteers from her own band and likewise folk-leaning outfits from around town like the Perpetual Drifters, The Railflowers, Dick and Jane and more. Patterson said she had some ideas of the album’s direction, but much of it came together naturally.

“I suggested songs to some people, and they all needed to be public-domain songs older than 1922,” she said. “I really wanted The Railflowers to do ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ because they have such good harmonies. And I thought Jeb Draper would be good at ‘Red River Valley’ because I know he can do cowboy-ish songs. …

“People started coming to me with songs and just auditioning by campfires and at different events. People would say, ‘Hey, I hear you’re doing this and I can do this song and it’s this old, I want to be on the album.’”

Recording was done quickly, most of it in April—the only time the Strange Seed studio was available to offer free time—so the mobilization effort was fast and furious.

That velocity hasn’t decreased; Patterson wrangled dozens of Chico’s best and brightest to assemble a 16-song snapshot of the local music scene appealing to far more than her initial target audience.

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Origami Lounge owner/engineer Scott Barwick volunteered to master the project, and Patterson did the artwork herself with sewn felt, which Draper photographed and added text to. The whole package will be released with an afternoon celebration Sunday, June 12, at the Chico Women’s Club. The show will feature sets by Draper and Mandy Sherman, Scott Itamura and the Poa Porch Band, with other performers joining in.

The release party is also meant for kids, and other activities include a build-your-own instrument craft table, hula-hooping, jump-roping, a bean-bag toss and stories between sets. Bands will play selections from the album and other songs, with the Poa Porch Band providing live music for a cakewalk.

All proceeds from CD sales and the show (which is free, but donations are accepted) go to Kids and Creeks.

Kids and Creeks works with local schools and other organizations to teach kids about science and nature by immersing them in it. “They take kids outside to the creeks and the parks and teach them about stream ecology and plants and animals,” Patterson explained. “They do art projects with nature and songs and have different cool stations the kids go to. There needs to be a lot of science education in elementary schools. A lot of the college kids I work with haven’t had a good science background, so I thought it would be a good organization to support.

“Traditional American music is dying and we need to keep it alive,” Patterson added, suggesting the album’s further educational value. “It needs to keep going throughout the generations because it’s a big part of our culture and heritage.”