Hello Michael Rosen
~Review by Gerald Haigh, from The Times Educational Supplement, 26 March 2004 'Hello, Michael Rosen! Is a collection of settings of a dozen Michael Rosen poems. You wonder how some of them will work, for although Rosen's poems have powerful internal rhythms, they don't all go 'tum-ti-tum' by any means. Kelly brings the trick off, though, and the result is, for example, a song like 'Shmutter' ('OK, so laugh! OK, so I thought it was an English word. How should I know it isn't English?') which he renders in a wonderfully mock-apocalyptic style, slightly, and appropriately, reminiscent of the synagogue. My favourite here, though, is 'Mike's Wedding' ('My brother got married in an old Wimpy bar') that's performed as a joyful country-style romp. The huge strenth of these productions lies in the sheer musicianship that's on display. Kelly is a trained singer, but he has the facility, which many professionals do not, to use his voice in a range of styles from operatic to several versions of Country and Western. His 'blue grass' sound, for example, is a delight-you can practically see the hand behind his ear. Accompaniments are a combination of instruments and clever studio work, and every song is treated with originality and sheer good taste. Keep playing them [Walking Oliver CDs] to the children, because there's enough here to bear any amount of repetition.' (end of review) Paul Austin Kelly gives children the chance to re-experience the beloved poetry of celebrated children's author Michael Rosen. Through thoughtful use of melody and phrasing, Kelly breathes musical life into 12 of Rosen's delightfully quirky and comical poems, making them even more memorable and accessible. Hello, Michael Rosen is a rollicking musical adventure that is by turns comical, poignant, nonsensical and enlightening. Includes full-color 16 page mini-book with poem text and delightfully engaging illustrations by award-winning children's illustrator Korky Paul. Paul Austin Kelly relates how he became acquainted with the work of Michael Rosen: 'As eager parents, my wife and I began reading to our infant son well before he was able to grasp the meanings of all the wonderful words we so lavishly bestowed upon his ears. One of our early favourites was the marvelous Rosen collection called 'Don't Put Mustard in the Custard' (Scholastic Ltd., 1996). Some of the British expressions were new to our American ears, but the rhythm and harmony of the poetry felt like music, and Michael's ability to view everyday life from a child's perspective helped us rediscover the magic of growing up.' 'During my travels as an opera singer, I found many of these poems echoing in my head, and they began to take shape in the form most natural to me: music. Although my operatic career has been founded on singing the music of others, it has always been my dream to be a songwriter, so I began arranging and recording my musical versions of Michael's poetry. The varying styles--whether it be folk, pop, rock or rap-- reflect a combination of the music I've listened to throughout my life, shaped by my own preferences in musical form and colour. 'I think there's a real need for kids' music that features valid, interesting musical forms and quality performances.' states Kelly, reserving the same respect and professionalism for his youthful audience as he does the opera-going public. PAUL AUSTIN KELLY is the co-Director of Walking Oliver Ltd and a world-renowned opera singer. But don't panic! Even Paul knows that most children's ears aren't yet ready for the intensity of the operatic style! Nevertheless, as a highly trained musician, he knows what quality music for kids should be, so he brings his formidable musical talents in both composition and voice to the Walking Oliver musical repertoire. As agile on guitar as keyboard, with a voice that maneuvers skillfully and playfully through a wide variety of musical styles, Paul brings the joy of music and the talent of musicianship to every Walking Oliver recording, making the music come alive for children who can't help but sing along! In 2002, Paul Austin Kelly made it official. From country to folk, jazz to hip hop, rock to pop and even classical, Walking Oliver recordings would be imaginative, insightful musical journeys, always backed by quality musical performances, always delivering on the promise of quality music for kids. Still, it has been with the collaboration of his artistic partners that Paul's original mission comes full circle. After having been in contact for more than three years via email and telephone, famed children's illustrator Korky Paul finally hopped aboard the Walking Oliver bandwagon and not only designed the irresistible WO logo, complete with a whistling, finger-snapping Oliver, but also joined the team as designer and illustrator of their CD mini-books and labels, giving Walking Oliver both a fun-loving canine mascot and fantastical full-colour fun to accompany children's listening experience. Because while Walking Oliver will always be first and foremost about quality music for kids, music is just the beginning. Through music, words and art, Walking Oliver is dedicated to creating those special moments of love and laughter for kids and their families. Paul has performed leading roles with many of the world's most prestigious opera companies including the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Glyndebourne Festival. He has made numerous guest appearances on BBC Radio. Mr. Kelly has also worked professionally as a jazz singer and is an accomplished guitarist and trumpet player. A native of upstate New York, Paul Austin Kelly lives with his wife Carol, son Zack and, of course, Oliver Himself, at their home in Lewes, East Sussex, England.