News & Press
Chicago Celebrates Ella Jenkins at the DuSable Museum
April 10, 2019
Join Smithsonian Folkways on April 13, 2019 at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago for A Celebration of Ella!!, a day of performances and activities honoring the music and influence of Ella Jenkins.
At 94, Jenkins is one of the most revered singers and songwriters of the past century, and since her debut on Folkways in 1957, she has released over 40 albums of music for children. Call and Response, You’ll Sing A Song And I’ll Sing A Song, and Multicultural Children’s Songs are just a few of Ella’s beloved recordings, which have established her as the “first lady of Children’s Music,” and laid the foundation for contemporary family-music artists such as Elizabeth Mitchell and Dan Zanes.
The DuSable Museum of African American History, a Smithsonian Affiliate located in Ella’s hometown of Chicago, is hosting the celebration, which will feature performances from the Chicago Children’s Choir, performer and educator Carol Weston, musician Tammy McCann, storyteller Alice Collins, and acclaimed tap dancer Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin. Attendees will also have the opportunity to sneak a peek at the upcoming feature documentary, Ella Jenkins: We’ll Sing a Song Together. The entire city is taking part in the festivities, with proclamations from Cook County and the Mayor of Chicago.
Few musicians have made such an indelible impact on the development of young people as Ella Jenkins. We hope to see you at the DuSable for an afternoon of music, learning, and fun!
A Celebration of Ella!!
April 13, 2019 11 AM – 2 PM
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E 56th Pl.
Chicago, IL 60637
Watch Ella Jenkins and Friends perform “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”
July 20, 2017
For 60 years with Folkways, Ella Jenkins has been making and performing the kind of music that brings people of all ages together. “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” is exactly that kind of song. The song has been sung for likely over than 100 years prior to its first recording. Since its origins as a spiritual, the tune and ever-changing lyrics have given children and adults alike a simple tune to sing together.
On her new album Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins and Friends, Jenkins considered the role that music plays in the type of carefree togetherness that people experience at camp. The kind of music that brings this togetherness contains simplicity—enough for everyone to follow along and sing together. In addition, camp songs should be easy to add lyrics to, so that the singers can make it their own. Many of the songs she chose, like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” have been following those guidelines for over a century.
In this video of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” there is palpable joy and satisfaction from all of the performers, from child to adult, over what they created together. The video demonstrates that Ella Jenkins’s talent lies not only in the music she makes, but also in the joy she spreads by sharing it.
Click here to learn more and purchase Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins and Friends.