When I was leaving the elementary school today after tutoring, a group of kids burst out of one of the portable classrooms and ran down the sidewalk. They were all carrying recorders. Some were playing snatches of Carol of the Bells. They were all excited, chattering, jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk, and just generally expressing their enthusiasm for life. I remember getting my very own recorder: a simple, plastic, brown instrument that probably would have made a real musician wince. But I loved it. I loved turning the notes on the page into a song that I could play. I was thrilled to take part in the small musical numbers led by our teacher. Part of my enjoyment came from emulating a childhood hero.
Does anyone remember the Friendly Giant? As a young child, I watched this popular Canadian television program every day. The show always started out the same. We would hear the beautiful song Early One Morning on the harp and recorder, with the camera panning over the village. The Friendly Giant would tell us to look up, waaaay up! Then the giant would invite us to come and visit him in his castle, where he had little chairs set up for us to sit in. How I wanted to climb into that rocking chair and actually be there! Then Friendly, Rusty (a rooster who lived in a book bag and played the harp), and Jerome the Giraffe (who stuck his head in the upper castle window) would talk, tell stories, read books, and play music. Friendly played his recorder, and Rusty played the harp, and sometimes they had guest puppets (like the Jazz Cats) come and play as well. The show was easy going, spontaneous, and full of gentle humor. It was perfect for small children who wanted a secure, happy place to visit. All too soon, the Friendly Giant would say goodbye, put the chairs away, and wave. The castle doors would close, the drawbridge would go up, and a smiling, silver moon would climb into the sky. I kept the TV on until the cow had jumped over the moon.
I am thankful for Bob Homme (who played the Friendly Giant) and Rod Coneybeare (who played the puppets) and all those who worked to provide a beautiful, uplifting program for children, who knew the importance of imagination. The Friendly Giant is still one of my heroes. I’ve forgotten most of what I learned on the recorder, but my love of music, books, and storytelling has been woven deep into my soul.