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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > California Gold

[Detail] Mary Goshtigian playing the oud.


In conjunction with a music class or choral class, students could produce and perform a show of folk songs from California Gold. Many of the songs in the collection are represented by both a textual transcription as well as a sound recording of someone performing the song. In some cases, there is also a melodic transcription of the song.

Students could pick some of their favorite songs to perform, or they could choose a theme for their production. For example, they might decide to focus on humorous songs, children's songs, Spanish lullabies, or English ballads.

 Snooky-oo-kums, performed by Mrs. Byron Coffin, Sr., 1939

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Song Lyrics

Students can write their own words for a song. The song could be set to a folk tune found in the collection. Ask students to think carefully about the purpose and intended audience for the song. Is the song meant to tell a story? To make people laugh? To celebrate a particular event?

You might also ask students to collaborate on writing the lyrics for several songs that revolve around a particular theme found in California Gold. Students could then do further research on their topic, and make a museum display which included a recorded version of their songs.

From Verse to Prose

Students could study some of the ballads and write out the stories in their own words, as short stories or as plays.

Search on English ballads to find a number of tales told in music that could be transformed into prose. For example, students might listen to the recording and read the text to "Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene," then rewrite the story with their own details or a different ending.

Foreign Language Study

California Gold contains many songs in a number of different languages. As a part of their foreign language study, students could be asked to learn the song in the original language, as well as translate the lyrics.

Search on Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian to find both sound recordings and transcriptions of songs in these languages.

For example, by searching on Italian, one of the songs you'll find is Napoli e Bello (Naples is Lovely), performed by Guiseppe Russo in his native language.