Song of the Week: Polly Put the Kettle On

Song of the Week

“Polly Put the Kettle On” is a fascinating cross-cultural tale of music.

The original song was 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.” 

*Had to find some English kids singing the original version. Love those accents!

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 the song in a completely different direction (and different continent) than the first version you heard above.

*The Girl from Ipanema, Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz 1964. I feel a warm breeze just listening to this song.

“Polly Put the Kettle On” has a lot of personal connections for our teachers in Atlanta as well. It is a self-proclaimed favorite for many. (Check out David Wetzel’s teacher bio.) 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 upcoming holiday ball this weekend, our teacher Talia Aull will be performing this piece as a duet with her father! Here is a sneak peak of the “awwwww”-inducing duet at rehearsal last week. 


So, what should you be doing with this song? If you’re in Atlanta, come to our holiday ball on December 8th to see it live of course! (Ok plug over – but really the holiday ball is pretty magical.) 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 that hops the song over to Italy for even more cross-cultural connections.

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 a 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.) If you do turn a song into something that’s personal and meaningful and memorable, then obviously 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 make sure to share your own crazy song journeys!

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