Helen Intintoli and The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus- Winnie The Pooh, We Love You

This week’s selection is a record so special, delightful and rare that I’d like to present it here in its entirety- Winnie the Pooh, We Love You, written by Helen Intintoli, MA, and performed, under her direction, by The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus of Vallejo, California.

The concept of a school self-producing their own record is nothing new- try doing an Allmusic search for “High School” and see how many entries turn up (as a matter of fact, even the tiny hippie alternative school I attended made one- and someone resurrected it and put it in their blog!). The record shop I worked at even had a section set aside for them, albeit a small one. What is unusual is for one of these records to consist of well-written (and decently recorded) original music. Most (including the widely heard Langley Schools Music Project) are comprised of cover tunes, performed with varying degrees of enthusiastic ineptitude; records only a parent could love.

That’s why this record was such a surprise.

The very first track encapsulates everything that is special about this wonderful LP. It’s a perfect pop song in the multi-dimensional, musically complex mode of a Brian Wilson or a Bert Bacharach composition- beautiful melodic parts, lovely contrapuntal instrument lines and interesting, affecting chord progressions.

The center feature, of course, is the children’s voices. This LP is imbued with the plaintive, wistful emotional quality that can be unique to a child’s voice. Note that I say “can be”; an out-of-tune or tritely arranged childrens chorus can be gratingly unpleasant. On this production, Ms. Intintoli’s skilled direction brought out the best, most musical qualities of her students.

The loving care and musical attention to detail are evident throughout the record in numerous playful directional touches- the “buzzing” vocal at the end of “Isn’t It Funny How a Bear Likes Honey”; the chanted vocals on “Kanga’s Marching Song”; the Ray Davies-like melodic piano figures on the waltz section of “The Customary Procedure” to name but a few.  Some tunes are truly gorgeous- the first track and “How Sweet to Be a Cloud” in particular. I can only imagine how special it must have been for the young participants, and what wonderful memories they must have of the experience!

Through the magic of the internet, I located and wrote to Ms Intintoli. I asked her to tell me what she could about the production of the record and her influences. I was delighted to receive a response! She wrote, in part:

We had lots of fun making the recording.  It was part of a project for my master’s degree at San Francisco State in 1973.  I was teaching classroom  music part time  at St. Basil’s in  Vallejo .

I have a BA in music from College of Notre  Dame (Belmont) and my master’s is in Creative Arts Interdisciplinary.  I wrote the music and directed the production on stage. That way it incorporated many elements of drama, music, scenery and costumes, lighting etc.   I found a script for Winnie the Pooh but it had no music, so I worked songs into appropriate places in the existing play script. My musical ideas were influenced by the way different styles of music were used in Godspell. So I tried to match the style with the character–like Eeyore’s Blues and the whimsical nature of Pooh and the know it all Owl.  It was fun. I added into the script a “chorus” of butterflies, bunnies, and other small animals to let more children participate.

We made the recording in a warehouse type of recording studio in one afternoon.   It was a big hit and of course all the families bought copies.

What a thrill to hear from her! How marvelous to imagine this music in full production! I also discovered her subsequent professional history- she was hired shortly after her graduation by Solano Community College, where she has taught music ever since, leading chamber and jazz vocal ensembles. She also leads The Well-Tempered Voices, who have recordings available here.

In this blog to date, many of the pieces of music I’ve shared and written about have something “weird” or “off” about them- a reflection of my own rather deviant sense of humor. This is the first entry that is unequivocally sweet and sincere; a collaboration between guileless children and a mentor sympathetic to their sensibilities. Perhaps something of both resides in each of us, and that is why this record is so affecting. It is also the first post that I am sure the creator of the music will read, so- Hats Off to Helen Intintoli, and the St. Basil’s Elementary School Choir!

winnie the pooh we love you mp3

isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey mp3

eeyore’s misery blues mp3

the cutomary procedure mp3

oh pooh you can depend mp3

how sweet to be a cloud mp3

kanga’s marching song mp3

roo’s fun song mp3

we’re rabbit’s friends and relations mp3

farewell song mp3

give three cheers for winnie the pooh mp3


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