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Sing a Song of Childhood

This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

February 24, 1999. All rights reserved.

Popular demand sent Hopewell music teacher Peggy Linke

into the recording studio to make her first album. But you won’t need

to call Ticketmaster to hear her sing. Linke performs music from her

debut cassette tape, "Songs to Grow On," at Encore Books and

Music, Saturday, February 27, at 11 a.m. And she’s hoping that her

early-rising audience will join in.

"Songs to Grow On" is a collection of folksongs arranged and

sung by Linke, who accompanies herself on guitar and keyboard. Some

songs have an electronic backup and others she self-accompanies harmonies.

The selections range from American children’s classics such as "Skip

to My Lou," to old English ballads and compositions by today’s

singer songwriters that include Tom Paxton’s "Jennifer’s Rabbit."

It was while Linke was teaching first and second grade at Princeton

Friends School that requests for a recording first came in. "We

sang every day, and the kids wanted to sing these songs at home,"

says Linke, "so parents began asking for a tape. At first I said,

`Great idea, but not me.’ Then, when I went home and told my family,

my husband said, `Let’s do it — and let’s do it right.’"

Linke and husband Rich Linke, a research physicist at NEC Research

Institute on Route 1, self-produced the recording, doing "all

the work ourselves in our living room." They made 300 copies which

they are distributing from home. They are the parents of two daughters

the younger of whom, Megan, a junior at Lawrence High, contributed

to the effort by producing the cassette artwork. Their older daughter,

Rebecca, is a junior at Cornell University majoring in animal science.

Like many a roving musician Linke plans to take the tape along when

she performs for children. She and her husband also perform as a folk,

country, and bluegrass duo under the name of So Inclined ("we

sing all the songs we’re inclined to"), with regular appearances

at the Cafe Improv at the Arts Council of Princeton and an upcoming

show in Paramus at Zeke’s Place.

"I envisioned this as a tape that parents would play in the car

on car rides," says Linke. "The first side is aimed at kids

from pre-school to third or fourth grade to sing along. The songs

on the second side are more sophisticated, perhaps more for listening

than joining in."

The album’s first side includes such indispensable parental helpers

as "Old MacDonald," "Skip to My Lou," "Bingo,"

and "This Old Man." On the second side are Linke’s favorite

old English `gems’ that include the haunting "Geordie" and

the uplifting "John Riley." The crowning touch on the album,

in Linke’s opinion, is her interpretation of "Child of Mine"

by Bill Staines. This singer-songwriter’s lullaby to a child who is

both "the sweetest song and the greatest hit I will ever know,"

is sure to please children and their parents. It is one of six songs

on the album written by living songwriters including songs by Tom

Paxton, Priscilla Herdman, and David Mallet.

"Bill Staines played in Princeton a year ago, and he sang that

song," Linke recalls. "I was in the midst of deciding what

songs to put on the cassette. I had a couple of his CDs and I decided

right then I must learn it and put it on the album." Certain of

her desire to record the song was obtaining the necessary permission.

She says that, in general, "the hardest part of getting permission

was finding the artists. Once I found them they were great." All

the artists she approached gave Linke permission asking, at the most,

for minimal royalties of just a few pennies per cassette.

Linke grew up listening to music in Plainsfield, New Jersey, the oldest

of five children. "I grew up listening to a lot of classical music,

Broadway shows, all sorts of music. My father played violin and sang

in choral groups. My mother played the piano until so many children

came along."

A student of piano, guitar, and voice from age 10, Linke became involved

in the folk scene during her high school years. She performed with

her guitar at coffee houses in the early ’60s and went on to study

music theory and classical piano at Barnard College. After college

she studied composition at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music

Laboratory. During the folk revival of the ’70s, her interest turned

back to folk and she began to play dobro (or resophonic guitar) for

area bluegrass bands.

Linke is currently an elementary school teacher in the Hopewell school

system, where she teaches music to grades two to five and accompanies

chorus and orchestra on piano. She agrees with the general feeling

among today’s parents that children’s music recordings are heavy on

the glitz but lightweights when it comes to the heart.

"Kids need to know that people make music. It’s not all this very

produced sound with all sorts of voices and all sorts of instruments,"

says Linke. "They need to know that one person alone can sing

a song." Children also need to know that they don’t have to have

a wonderful voice to enjoy singing. "If you let them sing, they’re

going to have a grand time, and the chances are that they’ll develop

a pretty decent ear."

Or as the delicious lyrics of the bubbly, tongue-twisting song that

opens Linke’s album attest:

Sing! Dance! glorious notes,

Let them out of your glorious throats!

It won’t matter years from now

if you once sang off key.

— Nicole Plett

Peggy Linke, Encore Books, Princeton Shopping Center,

609-252-0608. Saturday, February 27, 11 a.m.

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