Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Three Cheers for Pooh



Some of my readers know of my fanatical devotion to what has got to be the best children's record ever made, a now-obscure 1952 recording of song settings of A.A. Milne's Pooh and Christopher Robin poems.  The record predates the Disney-Pooh industrial complex; the musical settings -- really art songs -- were composed in the 1920s, shortly after the first publication of the Pooh books, by English composer H. Fraser-Simson.  The excellence of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs is enhanced even more, on this recording, by the rather odd fact that they are scored for woodwind quartet, and by the equally odd fact that they are sung and narrated by the wonderful blacklisted American actor Jack Gilford (the fact that he couldn't work in the 1950s is likely the reason he made this record to begin with).  Gilford is an idiosyncratic, but adorable, Pooh -- whoever imagined Winnie with a Brooklyn accent?  And the songs really are marvelous.

I found today that some Very Wonderful Person has made a zip file of a later recording of the Fraser-Simson Pooh songs of which I was unaware, this one by Welsh tenor Robert Tear and pianist Philip Ledger.  Though it lacks the eccentric charm of the Jack Gilford-woodwind quartet version -- Tear's reading of the songs is very straight -- it is a lovely recording of some wonderful, little-known music.  And this Same Wonderful Person has also uploaded the unavailable 1975 Maurice Sendak-Carole King television special, "Really Rosie" (from which my dear friend who posts on this blog occasionally derives her moniker), which you can watch in Quicktime.  Bless you, Wonderful Person, whoever you are -- you have improved my life immeasurably.

7 comments:

Cliff said...

Those are neat songs. Thanks for posting this. Our first baby was super-addicted to Pooh.

Pentimento said...

I'm glad you liked them. One day, if I can ever figure out how to upload the tracks, I'll have to spread the Jack Gilford-Pooh love.

Sylvia said...

Oh, please do. I would no longer be 'halfway down the stairs, neither up nor even down...' but over the moon to be able to download the classics.

That album was a vital part of my childhood which also include recordings of 'Davie Crockett', 'Diver Dan and the Bermuda Onion', 'Carnival of the Animals', Danny Kaye reading 'Grimms' Fairy Tales (Clever Gretel is amazing!), and Rusty in Orchestraville.

Not having a TV until we were 5, our imagination and these recordings were our occupation (and probably saved my mother as she raised my older brother, my twin brother and myself).

Pentimento said...

I will have to figure out how to do this . . . it's up there on my list to do, though. Hopefully this year!

Thea said...

I love Jack Gilford as Pooh. I listened to this version of Pooh when I was a child in the 1960's and the disney product never did sound right to me. I have just started searching for these songs for my nephews and nieces and came across your blog. There is website called the Kiddie Record King which I have not yet contacted but which seems to have these recordings available. If you have found them anywhere would you mind passing on the info?

Pentimento said...

Thea, I got my Jack Gilford Pooh on ebay for a few dollars. You might check there every so often.

b. lynch black said...

way behind the times on this, but this album has been on my mind all day. i don't have a turntable, but just found a copy on amazon, which i intend to purchase and see if i can find someone who can record it to CD for me. my brothers, sisters and i loved this album -- disney's pooh never sounded right to me after this -- and i once won a free ice cream in oxford england for being able to sing Coddleston Pie: 30 years after last hearing this album. we also had every album that sylvia mentions. now i may have to try and find those too.