A musician may be awed by the sight of a big crowd sitting on the floor (festival seating style) in excited anticipation of the concert about to happen. But Peter Himmelman walks right through the crowd waiting to hear his show at McCabe’s, dancing in time to a cry that he refers to as a “wa-wa pedal.” Himmelman’s audience eats it up: they’re children, mostly age six and under, at McCabe’s with their parents for a morning kids’ show, the first Himmelman has done at McCabe’s in a few years.
Himmelman is “promoting” his latest album of children’s songs, My Trampoline, but this show is really a good-natured hour of songs and participation for youngsters. Himmelman relates to them as a tall friend, a man with a hat and several guitars at his disposal, who gives out sheets of paper and crayons for his audience to draw pictures of “anything that comes into your head,” possibly inspired by the songs.
His repertoire includes rocking nonsense songs like “Itty Bitty Baby,” “Feet” (“a part of the body that hasn’t been sung about”), and selections from the new album, the ska-inspired “Imagination,” and the title song, “My Trampoline,” which gets some of the young females to jump up and down with the music. (“It’s slam-dancing!” a mother whispered).
My Trampoline, recorded at Furious Sound studios in Santa Monica, also features songs about nature (“Ten Billion Blades of Grass”), and humorously bizarre fantasies like “Main Dish” in which he wonders if various foods aspire to different roles:
“Does the relish ever want to be the hot dog?
“Does the pickle ever want to be the bun?
“Does the ketchup ever want to be the meatloaf?
“Saying being second fiddle’s no fun.”
Peter Himmelman established himself as a singer-songwriter originally in his native Minneapolis, after playing in a couple of bands. For the last ten years, Himmelman, now a resident of Los Angeles, has composed music for television and movies, earning an Emmy nomination for his score for TV’s Judging Amy, recording albums of songs for the regular adult audience, and four previous albums for kids, including the Grammy-nominated My Green Kite.
His inspiration for writing for children comes from his experiences as a father of four. “The most valuable tool I have as a father is a good and ready sense of humor.”
Does writing for children differ from writing for adults? Himmelman doesn’t think it varies much. “You have to consider the experience of the audience you’re writing for.”
Then he observes: “ My advantage with kids is that my nine-year old self is very much intact.”
My Trampoline is available on Himmelman’s label, Minivan Records, minivanproductions.com.