Today, from our June playlist, we’ll be going through a piece called The Waltzing Cat by one of my favorite composers, Leroy Anderson. He’s the composer of the famous piece, Sleigh Ride, which is a very popular piece at Christmas (though not actually a Christmas piece! You can read more about that here, if you’re curious).
Leroy Anderson is a wonderful composer for children because of his ability to take everyday sounds and recreate them in his music. His piece, The Typewriter, for instance, does a wonderful job at recreating the sounds a typewriter makes. I remember playing that piece with my students in school, and afterward we had to have a discussion about what a typewriter was, as they were not familiar with that. It made me feel a little old, to be honest! Another popular piece from Anderson is The Syncopated Clock, which is also included in this month’s playlist, but we’ll save that for another lesson!
Today’s piece is called The Waltzing Cat, and as you have probably guessed, it’s supposed to sound like a waltzing cat. Now you might be wondering what a waltzing cat may sound like. If that’s the case, I recommend you check out this video:
Let’s get started:
When I do listening lessons, I like to play the piece a few times through. The first time, I just let them listen, then I like to add more during subsequent listening times.
About the composer- Leroy Anderson
- born June 29th, 1908 in Massachusetts (died May 18th, 1975)
- American composer, as well as a conductor
- known for composing short, light pieces
- many pieces were debuted by the famous Boston Pops orchestra
About the music- The Waltzing Cat
The Waltzing Cat was written in 1950. As we mentioned at the beginning, this piece is meant to depict the sound of a waltzing cat, if you can imagine that. But how does Anderson imitate the meow sound of a cat? And who has seen a cat who can waltz? And what is a waltz?
Let’s start with the easiest question: a waltz is a type of dance characterized by its “one, two, three” pattern (triple meter). The piece begins with that triple feel of a waltz. See if you can hear that in the music (you’ll want to pause it around the … mark). You might even try dancing to the waltz section.
After the waltz section of the music, you’ll hear the music change. Here come the cats! The composer uses the strings to create a meow-like sound in this piece, and does so brilliantly! They play short slides, also called glissandos, to replicate the sound of a cat. See if you can hear the meows coming from the strings section as you listen!
So the piece opens with the waltz music, then you hear the meow of cats, and at that point you may envision a cat and mouse chase in your head. At least I do, after watching the youtube video that matched the music with a Tom and Jerry clip.
The song is not very long, and is really fun.
Form practice- the form of this song is AABBA coda. After children listen to it, they can come up with different movements for each section. For instance, during the A section, they can decide to move slowly, doing the waltz. See if they are able to tell you when the music changes. Have them label the new section as section B. What does the music sound like during the B section? See if they can replicate that during the music. If they seem stuck, you can give them ideas, like a cat and mouse chasing each other, as seen in the Tom and Jerry video.
Listening map/ listening log– you can give children a paper and tell them the name of the piece before they listen to the music. See if they can draw what they hear during the music. What do they think of when they hear “waltzing cat”, for instance? Older children can fill out a listening log paper
movement activity– you can have so much fun with this piece adding movement! If you have any props, like stuffed animal kittens (we have our 3 little kitten stuffed animals), get them out! Have each child hold a stuffed animal kitten and move to the music. During the B section, they can have a cat and mouse chase. If you have more than one child, have one of them be the cat and the other be the mouse (or you can join in!). In a group setting, choose a few children to be the cats and then have the rest of the children be the mice. Make it a fun game of tag! Tag is such a fun game for the little ones!
I’d love to hear any other ideas you have with this piece!
Check out the rest of the June playlist listening lessons we’ve done:
- June listening lessons playlist-see all of the pieces (and access the playlist)
- The Happy Farmer – this short piece by composer Robert Schumann is a great way for children to do creative play!
- The Star Spangled Banner– here are some fun activities you can check out!