Green Teacher Review
"These two collections contain some of the most clever, upbeat eco-music for kids that has been recorded on this continent."
The Wilderbeats - Live
A children's album. All songs are educational about nature and creatures in the natural world. Above being children's musicians the Wilderbeats are good musicians as well. They write a good lyric, and a good chorus.
Musicians Joyce Saunders and Ashley Moffat - AKA the Wilderbeats - are back with their new CD, Second Nature. In typical Wilderbeat style, the natural world is the inspiration for the duo's second album, which teems with stirring images, layered melodies and clever lyrics that will entertain kids and parents alike. New tunes like "Earl and the Southern Flying Squirrel" and "Himalaya, Home of Snow" are destined to become Wilderbeat favourites. The album also features a funky version of the Wilderbeats classic, "Night Shift,": showcasing some new nocturnal animals. Look for the Wilderbeats' performance at the upcoming Nova Scotia Music Week 2006, planned for November 9 to 12 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Both Wilderbeat albums Live in Concert and Second Nature are up for the event's children's recording of the year award. For more information, surf to http://www.wilderbeats.com.
They’ve Got the Beat
How do you get young children passionate about the environment?
Set their lessons to music
At nighttime, the sun doesn't shine
For some creatures, it's wake up time
They're nocturnal, if you catch my drift
It's time to hunt and feed and play
And time to start another crazy day
They're living in the Night Shift
- The Night Shift, by the Wilderbeats
Joyce Saunders and Ashley Moffat perform their music for the world's most impressionable fans: kids. The two form the acclaimed Halifax-based children's entertainment duo the Wilderbeats, and they've been playing for, and educating young fans and parents alike since 2001, when they worked at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.
Both women are musicians and songwriters apart from their roles as Wilderbeats; Moffat is best known for her solo work under the title Little Miss Moffat (her album, Miss Canada was nominated for an East Coast Music Award (ECMA) in 2005), while Saunders is a self-employed musician who performs with local musicians like the Benn Ross Fabulous Band, an experimental folk band based in Halifax.
When museum staff learned the two were musicians, they asked Saunders and Moffat to write and perform songs about birds for children during the museum's March Break program. Those first unforgettable performances laid the path for the duo's musical future as the Wilderbeats. "The response from the crowds was just astounding," recalls Saunders. "I hadn't really played for children before but we realized that day that there was really something to it." Children took to the music immediately. "It was a magical connection that just made sense," Moffat says.
Soon after, the two started creating music that blends entertainment and education. They've gone on to perform at a wide range of civic and community events, supporting causes from environmental awareness to child welfare. This October, they will perform at Salt of the Earth, a conference on environmental sustainability at White Point, on Nova Scotia's South Shore.
Combining their songwriting skills with their appreciation of the natural world, their rhythmic, folk-inspired songs help children cultivate a fascination with nature. "We're different from a lot of other children's entertainers," says Saunders. "We try to arrange the songs in a way that makes them interactive and engaging so that kids can learn some new words or new facts."
Moffat says young fans soak up the energy and enthusiasm of their live shows. "We do not dote over them and try to talk down to them, we just treat them like crazy fans and have a good time." Equally important, it's an enjoyable experience for parents. "The kids just catch on and sing, but it is the parents who are grinning at the back going, "Wow! That's a great way to explain the concept of coniferous trees verses deciduous," adds Moffat.
Today, many children have minimal first-hand experience with nature, so Moffat hopes the Wilderbeats will ignite a fascination in kids that will help them respect how the natural world works. “(We want to) get kids to bug their parents to go try and see a beaver or a blue mussel or a piping plover in its habitat,” she explains.
Beyond inspiring kids to combine creativity with science to celebrate and protect the environment, the duo also brings new sounds and musical styles to audiences, including hip hop, rap and reggae, creating a unique sound in the childhood music genre.
Such creativity has paid off. Their first CD, Live in Concert, was an ECMA nominee for best children's recording. Their upcoming CD, untitled as of yet, will include full band recordings of Wilderbeats classics along with six new tracks. The album will also feature a chorus of children from Park West Elementary School in Halifax.
As for making the band a full-time project, neither Moffat or Saunders are certain. Both balance daytime jobs; Saunders at the Discovery Centre and as an educational assistant for the Halifax Regional School Board and Moffat as an interpreter at Kejimkujik National Park and leading songwriting workshops with elementary students in nearby Caledonia. They're both considering making a larger commitment to the Wilderbeats, though. "The smallest effort seems to reap big returns," says Saunders. "Our Wilderbeats music is such a tangible contribution to society."
Indeed, nothing beats helping to inspire the next generation of musicians, artists and scientists and it's the potential both women see in their young fans that keeps the music flowing. "We want to encourage kids to write their own songs and poems about nature," says Saunders, "They're little artists too, and that doesn't just mean having the ability to draw. It means having the ability to see life in a new way. Nature is the perfect palette for song writing because it's beautiful, multi-layered, and fascinating, and it offers an endless supply of ideas."
Nature Songs Make Learning Fun
The Wilderbeats are a unique Halifax-based duo dedicated to making music about the wonders of the natural world. Ashley Moffat and Joyce Saunders started singing together in 2001 after meeting at at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History where they both worked as naturalists. They found a musical niche for themselves by writing songs about their shared passion for the environment. The popularity of their music continues to grow as they receive numerous requests to perform for children and adults at museums, parks, and schools.
In their 2003 release entitled Live in Concert, the duo match beautiful melodies with unlikely song lyrics. Surprisingly, they find enough rhymes and word play to write about a wide range of species including tamaracks, ravens, crows, boa snakes, bees, beavers, and mussels. The result is both entertaining and educational. They also have fun with their song titles, which include "Mrs. Pishing, Mastermind of Ornithology" and the "Blue Mussel Blues." To complement the clever lyrics, the ten songs on the album are simply arranged with acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals, harmonies, and plenty of cheering children in the live audience.
Live in Concert is an interesting way for listeners to discover more about nature. The songs are catchy, easy to sing along with, and sure to be hits with young listeners and their families.
And the Beat Goes On: Learning about nature through music
BOUT: Nature's voice for a new generation.
IN A WORD: Wild!
The Wilderbeats are two Halifax musicians and nature lovers who apparently think kids have heard enough silly songs about chickens with no bones and cherries with no stones. They sing about living things as they are, wild and self-fulfilling. Science writer and entomologist, Edmund O. Wilson has said that "the naturalist is a civilized hunter." The Wilderbeats are a band of these pioneer hunters on safari with a quiver full of songs and a herd of kids along to beat the bushes.
My 9-year-old daughter liked the interplay of voices in the songs, the harmony behind the folksy melodies, and the call and answer between human and animal, singers and children, raven and crow. A standard guitar accompaniment predominates but is occasionally spiced up with the mandolin, blues harp, flat top guitar thumping, and uninhibited voice effects.
Saunders and Moffat give musical genres a pokin' with their picks in a sidelong salute to Carlos Santana on Boa Bonita and a warm bath of blues for mollusks in Blue Mussel Blues. Was that a little Cyndi Lauper I heard in Gus, Gus Gopher Tortoise?
The genius of the duo is their ability to animate the world of nature in lyric with a thrilling and raw matter-of-factness that keeps catching you off guard. "I won't swallow you, you tender child," croons Boa Bonita innocently. "I ain't hungry, you know I just swallowed a squirrel monkey."
Night Shift, the last track on the album sings hints to the audience about a series of nocturnal animals; kids respond and the chorus chimes like an anthem, "the more we know about them, the more we care..." These two blossoming musicians obviously do care for the organisms that slink and coil in the under story of our human-centred culture, and have become the madcap oracles of nature's voice for a new generation. Performers and ecologists who can teach without getting preachy and grim are as rare as Eskimo curlews. Ashley Moffat and Joyce Saunders are a pair of these rare birds. Oh no, they're The Wilderbeats!
Natural Women Ashley Moffat and Joyce Saunders are musicians who love nature.
Think of the last CD launch you went to. Chances are good that it involved at least some of the following elements: a dark and dingy bar, smoke in your eyes, boys with loud guitars; moderate to great amounts of lyrical angst. Chances are good that it didn't involve any of the following elements: small children, songs about bees, mosses or tamarack trees, an 80-year old tortoise named Gus. But chances are good that if you show up at the Museum of Natural History on Saturday, that's exactly what you'll find. That's when The Wilderbeats will launch their first self-titled CD.
The Wilderbeats (AKA Ashley Moffat and Joyce Saunders) are a newish group of entertainers for children, but not only children, as they are quick to point out. They sing songs about nature, and the songs teach people to care. "We want to stimulate a fascination with the natural world," says Saunders, as she and Moffat relax in the honey bee section of the museum. It seems like a lazy Sunday afternoon, but the museum bustles. Every time children come into the section, Moffat and Saunders talk shop with the kids, pointing to parts of the exhibit, picking out the queen bee, even though neither has worked there in a while.
"We want people to experience a connection with nature, and then, ultimately, to care for it," says Saunders. "You can't really make it happen the other way around."
The Wilderbeats came together two years ago, when Moffat, who worked at the Museum, got together with Saunders, who volunteered there, to do some original musical entertainment for the museum's March Break program. "We already knew each other, and knew the other played music, through a cafe we both played at," says Moffat. "So we just put together a show. We played eight half-hour shows in a row. It was crazy. And then the word just spread, I guess."
The women say they started getting asked to play other shows - at libraries, schools, for the HRM. The museum would commission subsequent songs for its next two March Break programs. "It just all sort of happened," says Moffat. "I think our minds are still trying to catch up."
But it's no surprise that the music took off. Both Moffat and Saunders are musically talented and have a a passion for nature, and the music is imbued with both. The results are alt-country style tunes that actually let you look outside your own self and teach you new things. (Do you know the difference between a raven and a crow? You will.) Moffat says that although the music was originally geared towards kids, it seems to appeal to everyone.
"I was just playing a show at the Attic, she says (Moffat is probably best known as Halifax's Little Miss Moffat), "and the song that everyone got up to dance to was a new Wilderbeats song I'd been working on, about an owl."
Another child comes in, and the duo talk to him about the bees. He talks to them about the Romans. He is ferociously smart and full of questions. When he leaves, reluctantly, they enthuse over him.
"See," says Saunders. "That's exactly what we love. There's nothing like connecting with kids in that way." Though neither of them is sure where The Wilderbeats will go from here, Saunders and Moffat both hope to continue on. They both say they are just excited for the chances they have right now - to teach and to entertain.
Wilderbeats CD release, Nov 29 at the Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer, 3 pm