Cocoa Bean: A cabaret for kids

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Pomfret - posted Mon., Feb. 14, 2011
Sally Rogers won the 1993 NAIRD Award for Best Children's Recording. Photo by Denise Coffey.
Sally Rogers won the 1993 NAIRD Award for Best Children's Recording. Photo by Denise Coffey.

A dining room at the Vanilla Bean Café was the stage for Sally Rogers, as she prepared to entertain her audience on Sunday, Feb. 13. 

Rogers pulled out a jaw harp, banjo and dulcimer, while about 16 people sat waiting for her. Two couches, a few easy chairs, and a semi-circle of dining room chairs had been pulled around the make-shift “stage.” For the next hour, Rogers performed a cabaret of sorts. Most of her audience was under 7 years old.

For almost eight years, the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret has been hosting “Cocoa Bean for Kids,” a music series for the whole family that combines acoustic music and movement. 

Rogers, who won a NAIRD award for Best Children’s Recording, started the show with a jaw harp. “This is an ancient instrument,” she said. Then she put it in her mouth and gave it a twang. “Just make sure your teeth are open when you play it.”

Her audience sat in rapt attention as she went into a rousing rendition of “Turkey in the Straw.” When she signaled, they sang the chorus with gusto: “Turkey in the straw. Turkey in the straw. The bullfrog danced with his mother-in-law!” 

For the next hour, Rogers played the dulcimer - “truly an American instrument,” she explained - and the banjo. She had her audience singing and dancing and acting out the words to the songs. One little boy danced a jig as she sang. She told a long story that made the kids laugh out loud. It was a story she wouldn’t have told had her audience been younger.

“When you’re a performer, you have to punt,” she said. If her audience had been primarily preschoolers, she would have had more interactive physical stuff. “I would have had them get up and dance and do more finger plays,” she said. “Today, I got to tell that story. I don’t think that kids get to hear stories told. A told story is a whole different world.”

A “whole different world” is what she showed her audience, as the snow and cold gave way to dulcimer music and songs about pizza and sky bears having pillow fights. At least for a Sunday afternoon.

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