Polly Put the Kettle On: From Nursery Rhyme to Bossa Nova

Song of the Week

Polly Put the Kettle On: From Nursery Rhyme to Bossa Nova

Polly Put the Kettle On was originally published by Joseph Dale in London in 1803. It was a lovely simple song about making tea with a very simple tune, along the lines of “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” 

Then… The Music Class got our hands on the song and turned it into a Brazilian Bossa Nova! Bossa Nova is probably the most recognizable style of Brazilian music today. Think “The Girl from Ipanema” and you’ll immediately recognize that smooth, jazzy, tropical feel. Bossa Nova literally means “new trend” or “new wave” in Portuguese and became very famous in Brazil in the 1960s fusing Jazz and Samba music together. This, obviously, took Polly Put the Kettle On in a completely different direction (and different continent) than the nursery rhyme version you heard above! 

*The Girl from Ipanema, Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz 1964. 

Polly Put the Kettle On has a lot of personal connections for our teachers in Atlanta as well. One of our long-time teachers Kim Chamberlain was the one who wrote the new Bossa Nova melody and sings the song on the recording! And for our annual Holiday Ball our teacher Talia Aull performs the piece as a duet with her father. Here is little clip from the Holiday Ball 2021's “awwwww”-inducing duet. 🥹


This song is a personal favorite for many of our teachers, so we included it on our compilation "On The Road with The Music Class" that's available to stream on Spotify. It's track 17!

So, what should you be doing with this song? If you’re in Atlanta, come to our annual Holiday Ball to see it live of course! And wherever you are in the world, sing the song with your kids when you’re making tea. Or coffee. Or boiling water for pasta. “Polly put the kettle on, we’ll all have pasta” is an excellent new variation!
Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, one of our goals at The Music Class is for you to take the songs we’ve created and change them!

Yes, change them! Consider the recording your starting point. We want you to take these songs and do whatever you want to them in order to make each song personal and meaningful and memorable for your family. This could mean changing the lyrics, or it could just mean making the song into a part of your routine. (Like every single time you make a hot beverage, play Polly Put the Kettle On and belt it out with your kids. Think of it as elevator music but instead, it’s hot-water-making-music.) When you turn a song into something that’s personal and meaningful and memorable, the whole family will be singing it all the time, and that’s when your child will be learning the most. As teachers we LOVE to hear all of the new ways you guys are using these songs in your home, so please share your own personal song journeys with your class!

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