Natalie should have been a school teacher. Not because her style of dress has been described as “marm-ish” and not because she has scolded her audiences from time to time. I’m thinking Natalie should have been a school teacher because of her passion for learning and her ability to make everyone around her listen and sometimes, even think. Yes – think. Imagine that. When she opens her mouth we all sit up and take notice, but are we paying attention to what comes out? I think yes.
Take this recent tour: Natalie is playing in small, intimate venues across the country – not to belt out socially responsible songs like “Cherry Tree” or “My Mother the War” or “Don’t Talk” (although the lyrics to these songs mentioned are didactic in and of themselves: illiteracy, politics, alcoholism). Instead, she is attempting to educate her listeners on the subject of long forgotten poetry.
Raise your hands if you know the poetry of Charles Causley, Rachel Field, Edward Lear, Jack Prelutsky, Mervyn Peake, Albert Bigalow Paine, Laurence Alma-Tadema, Charles Edward Carryl, Arthur Macy, John Godfrey Saxe, William Brighty Rands, Nathalia Crane, Robert Graves, Christina Rossetti, or Lydia Huntley Sigourney. If you have been following Ms. Merchant around the world you not only know these poets but you can recite their poetry – at least a poem or two. What’s even more fascinating is the renewed interest in the poets themselves. People are rediscovering poetry written for, about, or by children like never before.
I saw Natalie at the Calvin Theater a few weeks ago and, even though I am a die hard Natalie fan, thought this show was the most captivating concert yet. It was artistic, thought-provoking, visually stunning…and do I even have to mention that voice? Part lecture, part music, all mesmerizing.
Favorite moment: ‘maggie and milly and molly and may.’ I loved the way Natalie crouched down to brush the sands of an imaginary beach. Through her hand motions I changed my mind about the “horrible thing” that chased molly – from it being a crab (e.e.cummings) to a jellyfish…stay out of the water my friends!