Title of Work: About the Artwork: Creator: MUSIC

The Music Center’s Study Guide
to the Performing Arts
Title of Work:
About the Artwork:
My Family Home and The Immigrant’s Song
These two songs are based on Paul Tracey’s
experiences in his homelands. My Family Home is a
nostalgic, lilting, melody about returning to the
family home in South Africa. The lyrics skillfully
paint a picture of well-remembered sights, sounds,
and even smells of the countryside. The chorus is
sung in the Fanagalo language. The song conveys
the spirit of the composer who revels in the culture
of the people and the land. The Immigrant’s Song,
from the show “The Great Briton,” portrays an
immigrant, like Paul, who prefers to “live my life in
the good old U.S.A.” Paul’s sense of humor is
revealed in the amusing lyrics.
Paul Tracey b. 1939
Background Information:
International troubadour, Paul Tracey, draws upon his
cultural heritage and broad personal experience to
communicate ideas about life through original songs.
Born in South Africa, his parents separated when he was
seven and he moved to England. He and his brother
grew up with his mother on his grandmother’s estate,
and attended boarding schools. At age eighteen, he
returned to South Africa to reunite with his father and
work on his farm. It was here that he attended “The
University of the Bush” and learned much of what he
considers important in his life. Working with his father
and the foreman, a Swazi man named Simon Shabalala
who became his mentor and friend, he learned about
farming, building and appreciating other cultures. As the
sons of Dr. Hugh Tracey, the noted African musicologist,
he and his brother developed a repertoire of international
and African folk music and learned to play classical and
traditional instruments. This hobby led to the
creation of the musical revue, Wait a Minim!, which
opened in Johannesburg and ran for seven years on four
continents. Paul elected to remain in the United States,
performing in other Broadway musicals. The birth of his
daughter inspired him to write songs for children,
eventually leading to a request from Jim Henson to use
several for The Muppets. Based in Los Angeles, Paul
performs nine original One-Man shows for both children
and adults throughout the United States and overseas.
Creative Process of the Artist or Culture:
“How did I get into the wandering minstrel
business? The inspiration came from John Runge, a
brilliant singer/guitarist who came to my school
when I was a boy just learning the guitar. He
showed me what was possible!” Paul Tracey is a
prime example of one who has drawn his texts from
his own rich life experiences.
Paul, who traveled with the
American Waterways Wind
Orchestra during the summers,
also writes topical, satirical
songs about the towns he visits.
Photo by Chris Emmerick, courtesy of
the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
“I feel that if I can do a
really good job of singing
and playing, then the
message I bring will be
better heard.”
Paul Tracey
L. A.
New York
South Africa
After listening to the audio recording:
present family histories on moving from one location to
another. Discuss the feelings associated with such a move.
• In the chorus of My Family Home, Paul Tracey
Audio-Visual Materials:
eliminated the guitar accompaniment, added voices
• Artsource® audio recordings: My Family Home ©
and featured a percussion background. Why do you
1973 from cassette: “Paul Tracey: One Man Show” and
suppose he arranged the song in this manner? (To
The Immigrant’s Song © 1990: Kunjani Music, Los
replicate a typical South African sound.)
Angeles, CA; video of The Immigrant’s Song, directed
• In The Immigrant’s Song not only do the lyrics
by Rosylyn Rhee. All courtesy of Paul Tracey. For more
portray life in the British Isles, but Paul Tracey’s
information or to purchase recordings of Paul Tracey’s
performance style also provides subtle hints about
shows, please go to www.paultracey.org.
each country. Listen to the lyrics and pinpoint the
descriptive words or phrases for each country.
Sample Experiences:
Level I
Identify the manner in which Paul’s performance
• Listen to instrumental program music about life in the
portrays each place.
United States. Suggestions: “Hoedown” from Rodeo
• Compare songs by American composers which
(Copland), “The Walking Song” from Acadian Songs
convey a deep love of this country to My Family
and Dances (Thomson), Parade (Gould), “Putnam’s
Home. Suggestions: America, the Beautiful, This
Camp, Redding, Connecticut” from Three Places in
Land is My Land, America, Shenandoah.
New England (Ives), The Old Circus Train (Ellington).
Discussion Questions:
Creative Process Continued:
* • Learn the game songs children sing and play in different
He composes these songs from a visitor’s first
countries. Perform London Bridge is Falling Down.
impression, making fun of local problems that need
Identify similarities between the games and songs.
attention and mocking the foibles of elected offi-
Level II
cials. He compares this work to the role of the song-
• Learn the history of troubadours, balladeers and
writer in Mozambique among the Chopi people.
minstrels. Describe similar qualities. Look for unique
“You can say what you like, so long as you sing it. If
characteristics. Identify contemporary troubadours,
you sing it, the chief cannot get too mad at you!”
balladeers and minstrels.
This is another example of how Paul’s international
* • Learn and share songs that have been gathered while
life has influenced his composing. He is a modern
researching family histories.
troubadour, sharing first-hand information about
• Listen to instrumental music from different countries
places and people, and always with wit and humor.
whose themes are derived from their folk songs.
Multidisciplinary Options:
Suggestion: Hungarian Fantasy (Liszt).
• Paul’s first trip to England was a two-week journey
Level III
by boat. Trace the probable route he traveled from
* • Compose original couplets on a favorite
South Africa to England. Name the countries he
subject and make them into lyrics for a song.
passed. In the song, My Family Home, three
• Listen to music written by composers from other
countries are identified in the lyrics. Using them as
countries which describes the beauty of nature in their
a guide, trace Paul’s return trip by air.
homelands, e.g. The Moldau (Smetana), Amid Nature
• In The Immigrant’s Song, the countries in the
(Dvorak), To Spring (Grieg), “By a Meadow Brook”
British Isles are named. Locate these countries on a
from Woodland Sketches (MacDowell), “Spring” from
map. Read about them to discover the unique
The Four Seasons (Vivaldi).
qualities of each.
• Most students can find in their family histories
incidents of immigration, emigration or movement
from one community to another. Have students
• Learn about American folk singers who have
popularized American folk songs, e.g. Pete Seeger, Josh
White, Burl Ives, Bessie Jones, Woody Guthrie, Odetta
and Peter, Paul and Mary.
* Indicates sample lessons
LEVEL I Sample Lesson
From the beginning of time, children have made up their own songs and often combined them with
simple games or dances. Usually, no one knows who composed the songs. As they travel through
different groups of children, the lyrics may change. However, they are usually simple and repetitive.
As in folk tales, universal themes can be found in
children's game songs. In this lesson, we have featured
a classic children's song and game from England
to match one of Paul Tracey's cultural influences.
This popular historical song is based on a bridge in
London with houses built on it. The houses got too
heavy and caused the bridge to fall down. The melody
is easy and repetitive and the movements that go with
the words are fun to do. There are many different
verses to this song found all over the world.
It is interesting to note that over a century later, the
London Bridge was taken apart, stone by stone, and
rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Children Playing London Bridge
by William H. Johnson
OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes)
Students will be able to:
From the David C. Driskell Collection and courtesy of
the David C. Driskell Center at the University of
Maryland, College Park.
Photographed by Greg Staley
• Perform and compare game songs from several different countries.
(Historical and Cultural Context)
• Demonstrate understanding of steady beat by moving accurately to the music.
(Artistic Perception)
• Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to
Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Aesthetic Valuing)
• Selected songs from folk song collections or State Adopted Textbooks. (See Classified Index under
Games, Singing Games and Folk Songs.)
A good recording of the song London Bridge is Falling Down can be found online here:
• Select three or four game songs from different countries. Look for songs whose basic beats are essential
for performing the game well. Examples: San Severino (Chile); Hawaiian Boat Song ; Lost My Gold Ring
(Jamaica); Will You Follow Me? (France); My Head and My Shoulders (South Africa - Zulu) ; Indian Stick
Song (U.S. Northwest Coast Native American) ; Looby Loo (England) ; Che Che Koolay (Africa-Ghana);
Find the Ring (Greece) ; Button, You Must Wander (U.S.) ; Obwisana (Africa - Ghana); The Lion Game
(South Africa - Zulu); London Bridge (England).
• Be certain each song can be sung with confidence and each game is accurately executed before moving
to the next song. Procedure: Teach the song first, then have the children tap the basic beat as they sing
the song. Next teach the game, reminding them to keep the basic beat as they play.
• Talk about similarities among the games and the importance of the basic beat to the movement in each
game. (Some songs, such as Button, You Must Wander, Indian Stick Song, Lost My Gold Ring, Obwisana
and Find the Ring each require similar passing movements.)
• Throughout West Africa, young children and adolescents play many games that develop rhythmic and
singing abilities. These games involve a wide variety of bodily movements and songs. One of the most
popular type is called “passing games” in which children sit in a circle and pass a rock or other object on
the basic beat of the song.
Example: London Bridge, an English game for children:
“London Bridge is falling down,
falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
Two children make a bridge by facing each other and
holding hands. The other children make a line and
walk under the bridge during the verse.
Take the key and lock her up,
lock her up, lock her up.
Take the key and lock her up,
My fair lady.
One or two of the children are caught in the middle of
the bridge and stay there while the bridge sways
from side to side. The captured ones also sway.
Take the key and let her out,
let her out, let her out.
Take the key and let her out,
My fair lady.
The child who is next in line takes an imaginary key
and unlocks the bridge, which open up and releases the
prisoners. The children making the bridge also join the
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down;
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
The next two children in line become the bridge and the
others march or skip under the bridge. This time the
bridge collaspes and everyone falls down.
Build it up with cotton thread,
Cotton thread, cotton thread;
Build it up with cotton thread,
My fair lady.
All the children rise and mime trying to fix the bridge
with thread. They all join together to make bridges in
partners and small groups.
Cotton thread will not hold fast,
Not hold fast, not hold fast;
Cotton thread will not hold fast,
My fair lady.”
All the students balance back and forth, side to side,
then everyone falls down and the song is over.
It is best to learn the lyrics and melody at the same time, however either the melody or words could be
introduced first.
1. Sing the song and have the children tap or clap the basic beat (or use rhythm sticks).
2. Try the actions that go with the song.
3. Have some children perform the song and some children tap the basic beat while all of them sing.
4. Use the discussion questions under “Assessment” to give the students a chance to discuss their
• Design an original game based on passing movements to a basic beat.
VOCABULARY: basic beat
ASSESSMENT: (Aesthetic Valuing)
DESCRIBE: Describe or show what a basic beat is.
DISCUSS: Discuss the song/game and what you liked best and what you might change.
LEVEL II Sample Lesson
In the song, My Family Home, Paul wrote about
living in New York and his desire to return to his
roots in Africa. He mentions specific nostalgic
memories he had; these include the sounds and
sights from the family farm, the daily
conversations in the local dialect he had with the
African farm workers, the spiders on the ceiling
above his bed and the smell of the cattle in the
valley down below.
As you research your own family life, try to recall
particular memories that stand out in your mind.
Think of the sights, smells, sounds and people
who are in your past or current life. What makes
these memories special to you?
When he wrote The Immigrant’s Song, Paul wrote
about an experience that is common to many
Paul Tracey in his one man show
people. In this song, he is writing about
“The Great Briton”
immigrants from Great Briton (England,
Photo by Craig Schwartz
Scotland, Wales and Ireland). However, the same
ideas of leaving one’s homeland to start a new life in another country are universal. These include
religious or political freedom, work opportunities, new land to farm, joining family members, etc.
This lesson is about discovering your own family roots. After interviewing a family member, you may wish
to share an old family song, or take one or two of the memories and write lyrics for your own song.
OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes)
Students will be able to:
• Tell about the communities, regions or countries where relatives once lived. (Historical and Cultural
• Share songs from the locations represented in student family histories. (Historical and Cultural
• Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to
Assessment at the end of this lesson.
(Aesthetic Valuing)
• Family history Interview Guide (See the form at the end of this lesson.)
• Tape recorder or record player.
• Selected songs from around the world. Refer to music text books,
song collections and students’ sources.
PROGRESSION: (Requires several sessions)
• Ask the students to interview parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to learn about the places where
they were born and grew up. Some students may also choose to learn a song that members of their family
remember. Others may choose to bring a home recording of a song their family members performed.
• Have the students prepare brief oral reports highlighting the information they collected. Have them
share songs, if possible.
• Cluster the student reports into general geographical locations. Using the locations as a guide, plan to
intersperse songs appropriate to the various locations. If an insufficient number of family songs have been
volunteered, select appropriate songs from the music textbook or other songbooks. Try to use familiar
songs as much as possible. If you wish to teach new songs, limit the number to two or three. If
additional songs are needed, use recordings.
• Organize a presentation so that the student reports are interspersed with songs appropriate to the locations.
• Plan a formal program for other classrooms and/or parents.
• Take one or two of your best memories about your family history. Think of a familiar melody that you
know and write your own lyrics about your life to that melody. Examples of a melody you might like to
use is It’s a Small World or This Land is Your Land.
VOCABULARY: mobile society, heritage, forebears
ASSESSMENT: (Aesthetic Valuing)
DESCRIBE: Describe what you did to find out some of your family history.
DISCUSS: Discuss the things that most surprised you about your family history.
ANALYZE: Discuss how music and songs can keep you connected to your culture.
CONNECT: Identify and discuss other things that keep your family history alive.
Student’s Name
Name or names of persons interviewed
1. Where were you born?_____________________________________________________________
2. Where did you grow up?____________________________________________________________
3. How long did you live there?_________________________________________________________
4. What is your favorite memory?_______________________________________________________
5. If you moved, how did you feel when you left?___________________________________________
6. By what means did you travel when you left?_____________________________________________
7. Where did you go?________________________________________________________________
8. Did you ever return to your original home? If so, how did you feel?____________________________
9. Can you show me on a map where you lived? ___________________________________________
10. Can you remember a song that you knew as a child?______________________________________
11. Please write the words for me, then teach me to sing it, too. (May I record it?)
12. Jot down some words that come to mind to describe your family. ___________________________
LEVEL III Sample Lesson
Songs are created in a variety of ways. Some composers write both the
words (lyrics) and the music. Others write the lyrics, or the music, then
collaborate with someone. Some set existing words to original music, or
borrow existing tunes for new lyrics. Composers create music for many
different reasons. Sometimes they are inspired by personal experiences
or events. At other times they respond to ideas or things that they see.
Other compositions are written to commemorate holidays or specific
events. Composers are often hired to write music for musicals, films,
videos or other special reasons. Whatever the motivation, composers
respond to their own need to express themselves through music.
OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes)
Students will be able to:
• Write a couplet that rhymes. (Artistic Perception and Creative
• Apply a steady beat to the couplet as it is spoken. (Artistic
“How soon will you take your bath
on your own,
How soon will you walk to your school
all alone?
How soon you’ll be grown!
It’ll soon be the phone
That takes over my place in your life!”
• Discuss the basic relationship of lyrics to music. (Aesthetic Valuing)
• Identify some of the rhyming words in the couplets of one of Paul’s
songs. (Artistic Perception)
“Daughter of Mine”
song by Paul Tracey
from Something Else album
Drawing: Susan Cambigue-Tracey
• Write an additional couplet to add to your original or create four-line
couplets with a partner. (Creative Expression)
• Drum or percussion instrument to keep steady beat.
• Listen to My Family Home, one of Paul’s featured songs.
• Use the Discussion Question on the Unit page 2 to discuss the song.
• Identify some of the rhyming words. You can also look at the lyrics of My Family Home at the end of
this lesson to help you. Note: if the lyrics are printed out for students, it could be a good search and
discovery process to circle the rhyming words.
Both could be thought of as poems; but when a poem is given music, it changes its name. Now it’s called
Lyrics are usually made up of words that have a strong meter or beat to them. Here’s one in a meter of 3
(3 time):
“There once was a fellow named Jack.”
Notice how the beat comes on the bolded and underlined letters. You could dance a waltz to this rhythm!
The next line will also have the same meter to it, and it will end with a rhyme for ‘Jack.’ Like this, for
“He lived in a broken down shack.”
These two lines together are called a ‘couplet.’ Make sure you
keep the rhythm exactly the same all the way through. This, for
example, wouldn’t work:
“He lived in a beautifully decorated shack.”
The rhyme still works, but the rhythm of the song is way off.
First, pick a subject that you want to write about. You should be
an expert on this subject so you’ll know all the words that could
describe the actions and feelings of this subject.
Perhaps it’s skate boarding, because you know what it’s like to
zoom along the sidewalk feeling every little crack in the
Or perhaps it’s having a meal at your grandmother’s house and
you know how good her muffins smell when she takes them out
of the oven.
It’s a good idea to write a list of words that you might include
in your song.
If you choose skateboarding, for example, you might have:
wind, hair, helmet, knee cap, stairs, ramp, falling, fast, speeding,
sneaker, cars, rules, Band-Aid, etc.
“There is a land full of colors,
I’m told,
Where the people get up
before dawn;
And as the sun rises,
the light brings surprises,
The people can see
what they’ve worn...”
Song by Paul Tracey from
“The Rainbow Kingdom” cassette.
Drawing: Susan Cambigue-Tracey
Think about each word and see if you can come up with a rhyme for that word that would also fit into
the meaning you want to put into your couplet.
For example: for ‘hair,’ you might put down, care or dare or tear. For ‘ramp’ I thought a good one would
be ‘champ.’
So now you write the first line of words that have a rhythm to them and the last word would be ‘ramp.’
Like this one in a meter of 4 (4 time), maybe:
“My skateboard whistled down the ramp.”
The second line is the same length with the same beat to it, and ends in ‘champ.’
“I tumbled off, but I’m a champ.”
The next couplet could describe how you escaped without killing yourself; I always like some humor in
my songs!
• Ask students to experiment with finding a melody that works with their couplet. It can be a tune they
know or an original one.
• Have a few partners volunteer to share their work.
• Using some of the musical elements, such as dynamics, rhythm, tempo and pattern, continue to
develop your four line verse or couplet to make it even more interesting.
• Write a second verse.
• Write a chorus that is sung in-between the first and second verses and at the end.
• Add simple percussion instruments to accompany the verses.
VOCABULARY: composer, lyrics, verse, steady beat, couplet, dynamics, tempo, rhythm.
ASSESSMENT: (Aesthetic Valuing)
DESCRIBE: Describe how you thought up the subject for your couplet.
Discuss the point you are trying to make in your couplet.
Discuss the elements needed to make a good couplet.
CONNECT: Discuss how lyrics are different from regular speech.
Words and music © 1977 by Paul Tracey.
Munye, mbili (one, two)
I think it’s time my family saw my family home,
We could take the jumbo jet that goes via Rome.
Flying high above Malawi and Zimbabwe, yes it’s far-we have to
Go to reach the farm that I come from.
It’s time my family got away from New York City
And it’s time they laid their eyes on something pretty.
And one thing I have my heart on
Is some milk not from a carton,
And the sounds I’m bound to hear when I get home.
CHORUS: I hear it:
Here’s Fish, here’s Zandile (girls’ names)
“Nango Fish, nango Zandile
Long time no see!
Kudala isikati ungi bonile
Open the canteen, give me some medicine,
Vula canteen, leta mooti,
Don’t run away again.
Aikona balega futhi.
Work, work, work, Deliwe (name)
Sebenza, sebenza, sebenza, Deliwe!
Hey! Why is the sugar finished?
Au! Ini indab’ ishugela iphelile?
Young boss, how many children have you got?
Inkosana mncane, bangaki bantwana?
One girl and no boys.
Umunye umfazi, akekho umfana.”
And I’ll sit and watch the trees I planted grow,
And listen to the bantams try to crow.
And I’ll very soon remember that it’s steamy in December
And that Christmas never, ever heard of snow.
VERSE 2. And when I get back home I’ll lie down on my bed,
Find my childhood blanket underneath the spread;
See those spiders on the ceiling,
Get that old familiar feeling
Will they stay up there or fall down on my head?
And I’ll revel in the smells from long ago,
The cattle in the valley down below.
And the farm will seem much smaller,
But there’s one thing I recall a
Sound that never changes, never will I know.
And New York will seem so very far away,
But too soon I know we’ll end our holiday.
And already I envision
In my mind that indecision:
Should we all go back, or should the family stay?
*Fanagalo is the required language of the gold
mines in South Africa. A simple language, it
is based on Zulu, English and Afrikaans.
Words and music © 1990 by Paul Tracey.
Did you ever visit Ireland?
It’s a green and pleasant place;
Life is never hurried,
Gentle is the pace.
And while you’re in Great Britain
There’s no use arguing,
You simply have to visit Wales
And hear those Welshmen sing.
It’s great to be in Britain,
But I have to say
That I prefer to live my life
In the good old U.S.A.
Verse 2.
Did you ever visit Scotland
See a Scotsman in full dress?
Did you ever skip a stone and hit
The monster in Loch Ness?
And when you get to England
There is so much to be seen;
And don’t forget at 4 o’clock
It’s tea time with the Queen. (One lump or two?)
Verse 3.
There are millions of us immigrants
Who came across the sea
Past Ellis Island and the great
Statue of Liberty;
With names like Quaney, Murphy, Jones,
MacDonald and Tracey;
And you can ask each one of us,
You know we all agree that
Write about what you know:
Pick the topic first and try to sketch out what each verse will say. What is
the mood of the topic? This dictates the type of accompaniment. There
are exceptions, but generally a sad or moody song will work better in a
minor key; major keys will be cheerier. I try to write the words and music
simultaneously, not wanting the lyrics or the melody and chord sequence
to get ahead of each other. This ensures a good blending of words with
music. I find it much harder to write words to music than music to words,
but I prefer to avoid the subject totally by writing them together.
Find good rhymes that fit the meaning:
Lyrically, I try to find rhymes that fit the meaning of what I am trying to
say. Seems obvious, but if the listener thinks, “he used that word because
it happened to rhyme,” then I have failed. A rhyming dictionary is a legitimate tool of the trade, but it can often turn you away from your original
thought and make the song go in a different direction to the one you had planned. Not necessarily a bad
thing, but should be kept under control!
I try to write lines the way you would say them if you were not singing them. I have heard many songs
where the words have been inverted just to end the line with the word that has to rhyme. No good! In
fact, I hate the opening two lines of My Family Home. The word ‘Rome’ is too square a rhyme. It is true,
however, that many flights do go that way; so I excuse myself. The real fun comes with the internal
rhymes: ‘Malawi’ rhyming with ‘far we’ pleases me. (Note that I speak British English, not American
English; thus the American ‘r’ does not apply in the word ‘far’.)
Family Home:
In My Family Home, I break into the Fanagalo language and show the contrast between New York City
and my memories of the energy and sounds on the farm in Africa. The chorus is designed to present me
as an authentic person who is from a different place, not an American who has visited somewhere and
brought back a few impressions. Yet, far from being a typical South African farmer, it shows that I am
someone who takes a delight in African culture.
The Immigrant’s Song:
The Immigrant’s Song is also designed to make the connection between American audiences and the culture of another country. This song was written as an introduction to my Great Briton show to explain that
I am an immigrant and will be taking them on a trip to visit the old country. Both this song and Family
Home have choruses. While each is meant to surprise the audience, their purposes, and the way in which
they are constructed, are quite different.
The chorus of The Immigrant’s Song is another surprise. I lull the audience into thinking that Great Britain
is the most wonderful place in the world, then in the very last word of the chorus I let on that “I prefer
to live my life in the good old U.S.A.!”
The Music Center’s Study Guide
to the Performing Arts
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Susan Cambigue-Tracey
Susan Cambigue-Tracey
Diana Cummins, Carole Valleskey, Madeleine Dahm, Deborah Greenfield,
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in the classroom.
Sincere appreciation is also extended to the members of the Center’s
Board of Directors and Education Council for their guidance in developing
these resource materials,
Music Center volunteers for their help in organizing, proofing and editing
Artsource® units; the professionals who provided field review;
and the dedicated teachers who tested the
Artsource® units in their classrooms.
Mark Slavkin
Vice President for Education
Melinda Williams
Director of Education