Putney kids sing theme for new PBS series


Saturday, November 10
PUTNEY -- Annice Pelletier knew the chorus she was singing in at The Grammar School's production of "Romeo and Juliet" was good.

The kids were hitting on all cylinders during the performance, Annice, 8, said, in so many words during an interview Friday.

And so when a local television music composer approached some of the chorus singers about performing for a public television theme he was working on, Annice was confident that she and her classmates could nail it.

"We were good. We just were," Annice said about the singing she and the rest of The Grammar School kids did during that performance. "Billy liked our voices and said we'd be great for the show and maybe we could go to his studio."

Billy is Billy Straus, a professional song writer who lives in Putney and has a daughter in the eighth grade at The Grammar School.

He was commissioned to write the theme music for "Word World," a new PBS show that helps pre-schoolers learn their letters and words.

Straus has done plenty of television music gigs and he has worked with some of the most polished and professional children singers in New York.

But sometimes those kids are too polished and too professional, and though they hit every note and come in right on the beat, Straus says for this theme he wanted real kids.

He approached Annice and her chorus mates, along with their parents, and after a day spent in his studio a brand new "Word World" theme was created.

And now, every weekday morning, the voices of The Grammar School students greet children all over the country as they settle in for another episode of "Word World."

"I've done hundreds of songs with kids and invariably the best performances come from kids that are excited and involved," Straus said about using the local chorus. "When kids record, a lot of it is more about energy and feeling than it is about hitting the notes. If I could choose energy and feeling or perfect notes, I'd go for energy and feeling every time."

Claire Thomas, 9, remembers when Straus first approached the group about going pro.

It was one day just before snack time, she said.

"He said we could do this song for TV and we were all psyched to do it," Claire said. "It's weird now having this famousness."

Then she broke in to a rendition of the song.

"Let's build a word," she sang, raising her arms above her head. "Nothing's better than a letter. They hold the world together."

Annice said their voices sound a little unfamiliar all mixed and layered on the television, though she's ready for any fame that follows.

"If someone came up to me and said, 'Didn't you have your voice on that show?' ... that would be weird," Annice said. "If someone took a picture of us and asked for an autograph ... that would be weird."

The recording session went well, Straus said.

After the singers got used to the microphones, headphones and the cool red and green lights that bounced up and down in time to their voices, Straus hit "record." They had the track licked after a few takes.

"It's demanding work. They did a great job," he said. "I would certainly bring them back in to the studio for the next one."

The group got paid $500 and the money was donated to the Grammar School music program.

Though they admitted they wouldn't have minded a little take-home cash and said $10 seems like a reasonable rate.

The next gig, however, would cost $15, they added.

"We don't just, like, ask people, 'Can we be in your show?' We don't want to be greedy," said Annice. "We'd probably do it again for free."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.


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