Touch the Sky

1 - Step By Step


Words and music copyright, John Farrell, 1998 

Step by step (Echo) 
One at a time " 
You don't have to run " 
There's plenty of time " 
If you fall down " 
Rise up and then " 
Step by step " 
Start movin'again " 

Life is a circle, the earth is a ball 
Seeds that are tiny grow so tall 
Seeds need the rain, seeds need the sun 
After the storm the rainbow will come 

Day by day (Echo) 
Follow the light " 
Riding the waves " 
Learning to fly " 
Feel how it feels " 
Reach for your dreams " 
Day by day " 
Let your heart sing " 

Step by step……………Day by day 
One at a time…………..Follow the light 
You don't have to run…Riding the waves 
There's plenty of time…Learning to fly 
If you fall down………. Feel how it feels 
Rise up and then……….Reach for your dreams 
Step by step……………Day by day 
Start movin' again……..Let you heart sing

2 - Rachel

Bob Blue is one of my favorite songwriters. He's also a great friend of children and children's music. It's a pleasure and privilege to include one of his songs on this recording.


Words and Music copyright Bob Blue, 1990 

I used to be best friends with Rachel 
And Rachel was best friends with me 
We always dressed just like each other 
And watched the same shows on TV 
On weekends sometimes she'd sleep over 
We'd whisper till we fell asleep 
She's a friend that made me feel important 
She's a friend that I wanted to keep 

Oh Rachel, where are you now? 
Did I do something wrong? 
Did I hurt you somehow? 
Oh Rachel you once were my friend 
Will you ever like me again? 

A girl moved in next door to Rachel 
Her name was Melinda MacNeil 
The two of them struck up a friendship 
With no thought to how I might feel 
Melinda and Rachel went skating 
I didn't know Rachel had skates 
Now Melinda's the one that she plays with 
And I am the one that she hates 

Should I try and forget about Rachel? 
Should I hope that she'll come back to me? 
Should I try and make friends with Melinda? 
Can a friendship include three? 
Should I pack up and move to Alberta? 
If I did would she miss me at all? 
I hope she hears my song 
We can fix what went wrong 
Rachel, please hear my call

3 - Feelings That I Have

I enjoy watching birds, especially eagles, hawks, and osprey. One afternoon on Prince Edward Island a bald eagle flew over the fields behind our house. It was exhilarating watching it soar, and it made me feel magnificent just seeing it. Later the same day I received a telephone call from a good friend telling me that her dad was very sick and in the hospital. This news made me feel sad and weak. Those contrasting emotions were the start of this song about feelings. My favorite verse is about the "worm on a hook." This song can be used as a starting point for having young students write their own poetry or songs about their feelings.


Copyright John Farrell, 1995 

Sometimes I feel like an eagle 
I can see the whole world as I glide 
Sometimes I feel like a rabbit on the run 
Just looking for a place to hide 

Sometimes I feel like a lion 
Everybody listens when I speak 
Sometimes I feel like the cat has got my tongue 
My voice is small and weak 

Sometimes I'm up 
Sometimes I'm down 
Sometimes I spin around and round 
Sometimes I'm happy 
Sometimes I'm sad 
Feeling the feelings that I have 

Sometimes I feel like an oak tree 
My branches reach to the sky 
Sometimes I feel like a jellyfish 
Just riding the waves as they go by 

Sometimes I feel like a beaver 
I can change if I keep working on 
But sometimes I feel like a snowman in the sun 
I'm here now but soon I'll be gone 

Sometimes I feel like a sunrise 
Everything I touch is warm and bright 
But sometimes I feel like a dark and cloudy day 
I can't get anything right 

Sometimes I feel like a song that fills the air 
I'm a melody, a harmony, a verse 
But sometimes I feel like a worm on a hook 
This ain't much fun but it could be worse

4 - Kilkelly, Ireland

I learned this amazing song many years ago on a recording by Micky Moloney and Robbie O'Connell.The Lyrics are based on a series of family letters sent to the U. S. from Killkelly in County Mayo. Two of my own great- grandparents and one grandmother emigrated to New York from Ireland in the late 1800's. They came from Limerick and Sligo. I have no doubt that the lyrics of this song reflect some of the emotions and circumstances that they experienced. Of course these feelings of separation, love, and longing were and are shared by immigrants from all places all around the world. 
I have done many family history projects with students, helping them collect stories and conduct interviews. This song has consistently been a favorite with fourth and fifth graders. Initially I was surprised by their depth of understanding. I should know better by now that kids are full of wonderful insights and surprises.


Words and music copyright Peter Jones, 1983 

Kilkelly Ireland1860 
My dear and loving son John 
Your good friend the schoolmaster Pat 
Mac Namara's 
So good as to write these words down 
Your brothers have all gone to find work in 
The house is so empty and sad 
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected with 
A third to a half of them bad 
Your sister Brigid and Patrick O' Donnell are 
going to be married in June 
Your mother says not to work on the railroad 
And be sure to come on home soon. 

Kilkelly Ireland 1870 
My dear and loving son John 
Hello to your Mrs. and to your four children 
May they grow healthy and strong 
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble 
I suppose that he never will learn 
Because of the dampness there's no turf to 
speak of 
And now there is nothing to burn 
Brigid is happy you named a child for her 
Although she's got six of her own 
You say you found work but you don't say 
what kind 
Or when you'll be coming home 

Killy Ireland 1880 
Dear Michael and John my sons 
I'm sorry to give you the sad news 
But your dear old mother passed on 
We buried her down at the church in 
Your brothers and Brigid were there 
You don't have to worry she died very 
Remember her in your prayers 
And it's so good to hear that Michael's 
With money he's sure to buy land 
For the crop has been poor and the people 
are selling 
At any price that they can 

Kilkelly Ireland 1890 
My dear and loving son John 
I suppose that I must be close on 80 
It's 30 years since you've gone 
Because of all of the money you sent me 
I'm still living out on my own 
Michael has built himself a fine house 
And Brigid's daughters have grown. 
Thank you for sending your family's picture 
They're lovely young women and men 
You say that you might even come for a visit 
What joy to see you again 

Kilkelly Ireland 1892 
My dear brother John 
I'm sorry I didn't write sooner to tell you 
But Father passed on. He was living with Brigid 
she says he was cheerful 
And healthy right down to the end 
Ah you should've seen him playin' with the 
Of Pat MacNamara your friend 
We buried him alongside of Mother 
Down at the Kilkelly church yard 
He was a strong and a feisty old man 
Considering his life was so hard 
And it's funny the way he kept talkin'about 
He called for you at the end 
Why don't you think about coming to visit. 
We'd all love to see you again

5 - Tell Me Ma / St. Ann's Reel

This song and reel are popular tunes in Ireland and on Prince Edward Island. It was a treat having Kim, Brad and Sigrid add their distinctive touches to this recording. Makes you feel like dancing.



I'll tell me ma when I go home 
The boys won't leave the girls alone 
They pull my hair and they stole my comb 
But that's all right till I go home 

She is handsome, she is pretty, 
She is the belle of Belfast city 
She is courting 1, 2, 3 
Please won't you tell me who is she? 

Albert Mooney says he loves her 
All the boys are fighting for her 
They knock on the door and they ring the bell 
Saying oh my true love are you well? 
Out she comes as white as snow 
With rings on her finger and bells on her toes 
Ol' Jenny Murray says she'll die 
If she doesn't get the lad with the roving eye 

Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high 
And the snow come tumblin' from the sky 
She's as nice as apple pie, 
She'll get her own lad by and by 
When she gets a lad of her own 
She won't tell her ma when she comes home 
Let them all come as they will 
For it's Albert Mooney she loves still

6 - Playing Right Field

The first time I heard this song it touched me deeply. It still does. I suspect each of us has certain aspects of our lives that makes us feel like the kid out in right field. It's great to know you're not the only one. Thanks to John German for introducing me to this song.


Words and Music copyright Willie Welch 

Saturday summers when I was a kid 
We'd run to the school yard and here's what we did 
We'd pick out the captains, we'd choose up the teams 
It was always a measure of my self-esteem 
'Cause the strongest the fastest played shortstop and first 
The ones they picked last were the worst 
I never needed to ask it was sealed 
I just took up my place in right field 

Playing right field is easy you know 
You can be awkward, you can be slow 
That's why I'm here in right field 
Watching the dandelions grow 

Playing right field is lonely and dull 
Little leagues never have lefties that pull 
I'd dream of the day they'd hit one my way 
They never did but still I would pray 
That I'd make a fantastic catch on the run 
And not lose the ball in the sun 
Then I'd awake from this long reverie 
And pray that the ball never came out to 
me here in… 

Off in the distance the game's dragging on 
There're strikes on the batter, some runners are on 
I don't know the inning, I've forgotten the score 
The whole team is yelling and I don't know what for 
Suddenly everyone's looking at me 
My mind has been wandering. What could it be? 
They point to the sky and I look up above 
And a baseball falls into my glove 

Playing right field, it's important you know 
You gotta know how to catch 
You gotta know how to throw 
That's why I'm here in right field 
Watching the dandelions grow

7 - It's History!

Local and family histories are full of colorful characters and happenings. It's enlightening to interview elders and collect their stories. This song was written to be used as part of oral history projects at Edmeston Central School in Edmeston, New York and St. Lawrence O'Toole in Brewster, New York. When the students performed it they gave it the feeling of a show tune, complete with hand gestures and choreography.


Words and Music copyright John Farrell, 1998 

Who? What? Where? How? Why? and When? 
Who? What? Where? How? Why? and When? 
It's your story, it's my story, it's our story, 
It's History! 
Who? What? Where? How? Why? and When? 

Who were the first to settle on this land? 
Why did they choose to make their homes 
right here? 
When did they arrive? How did they survive? 
What can we see today that tells us they were 

Who were the ones that helped to build this 
What were the hopes and dreams that 
brought them here? 
Where did they work and play? How did they celebrate? 
What can we see today that tells us they were here? 

Who were the ones who found fortune or fame? 
Why is it that we still recall their names? 
How did they serve and lead? What are their legacies? 
What can we see today that tells us they were here? 

What was it like to be alive back then? 
What brought joy and sadness to their lives? 
Let's see what we can find as we hold the hands of time 
And drift back through the years to yesterday

8 - Backwards States

On a long road trip we were writing down license plates from different states. After quite a while we were stalled at around thirty states and getting bored, so we decided to try to sing the names of the states alphabetically in reverse. What you hear is the end result of that effort. It took some time to get it down, but it was fun. It's amazing how quickly you can learn something when you add melody and rhythm. After all, didn't you first learn the alphabet by singing? Most of us do. Give the states a try.


Arrangement and Music copyright John Farrell, 1998 
States were already named. 

Wyoming, Wisconsin, West Virginia 
Washington, Virginia, Vermont, 

Utah, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, 
South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, 

Oklahoma, Ohio, North Dakota, North Carolina, 

New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, and 
New Hampshire 

Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, 
Mississippi, Minnesota, Michigan, 

Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and 

Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, and Indiana, 

Illinois, Idaho, Hawaii, and Georgia, 

Florida, Delaware, Connecticut, Colorado, 

California, Arkansas, Arizona, Alaska, and 

9 - It's Just A Game

As parents we sometimes forget why it is that kids should be playing sports. This song comes from years of playing, watching, and coaching. It is loosely based on our daughter Maggie's girls' travel team. The Brewster All- Stars. Fortunately, they have two benevolent coaches, Ray Pellecchia and Joe Cloherty. The text of the song has been illustrated by artist John Emil Cymerman and is being published as a picture book by Boyd's Mills Press, a division of Highlights Magazine for Children.


Words and Music copyright, John Farrell 1998

The sun was shinning bright and the grass
Was oh so green
We were laughin', we were singin', it felt
good to be a team.
We had new shorts and socks - on our
shirts they wrote our names
Everything was goin' great until they said,
"Let's start the game!"

Then the other team appeared, they came 
like soldiers to a war
They were big and they were fast and they 
looked mean.
Their coach was yellin' at 'em, he even
called us names.
I couldn't help but wonder, "Does he know
it's just a game?"

It's just a game! It's just a game!
We're only kids. We're not the pros.
We joined the team to learn and play and have some fun.
We'll try our best to win
but if we don't there is no shame.
Please remember this:
"We're only kids - It's just a game!"

Then the game began. We were nervous, we
were scared
Cause they were big and they were fast but 
they weren't mean.
They did play well together. They scored time and time again.
We made some good plays too and we tried
hard until the end

But then the game was over. We went and
said "nice game!" 
Quickly thoughts of ice cream filled our
Till we heard a grown-up shouting, "It's your
fault, you're to blame!"
I wish someone would tell him, "It's okay, it's 
just a game!"

As our season went along we lost every
game but one
But we got better and we learned stuff that
was new
Our coach says we're amazing.
And our teamwork and our friendships grew
and grew.

But when the last game ended another
team finished first
They played well. They played hard. They 
were the best.
And though the medals went to them we
feel like winners just the same
We never quit and we know "It's just a 

10 - Summer's Here

While sitting in our van in a parking lot one summer day, I overheard the kids in the back discussing black flies. Our friend Ilsa said, " I've got twenty-four bug bites." It struck me as a wonderful line and something only a kid would come up with. On the spot we began to list the people, places, and things that define summer for each of us. Soon we had a chorus and the beginning of a song. While I was writing the song, John Fitzpatrick, a dear friend of ours and a cherished father and grandfather to his family, died suddenly. We miss his songs, his kindness and his friendship. The last verse of the song is for John, Marge and their family.


Word and Music copyright John Farrell , 1998 

Twenty- four bug bite, freckles by the score 
Baseball, soccer, ice cream galore 
Old friends, new friends, strawberry pie 
Summer's here, another year, reach up and 
touch the sky 

Swimming in the ocean, fishing in the pond 
Riding bikes, playing cards, making up a song 
Shooting stars, bumper cars, lemon butterflies 
Summer's here, another year, reach up and touch the sky 

Reach up and touch the sky, reach up 
and touch the sky 
Summer's here, another year, reach up 
and touch the sky 

Swinging in the hammock, climbing up a tree 
Picking wildflowers, running on the beach 
Marshmallow chin, raspberry grins, catching fireflies 
Summer's here, another year reach up and 
touch the sky 

Reading to each other, reading all alone 
Teasing, fighting, talking on the phone 
Hummingbirds, jellyfish, asking how and why 
Summer's here another year reach up and 
touch the sky 

The barbecue is sizzling, the sun is sizzling too 
Running barefoot through the grass, trying 
to find my shoes 
Chocolate chips, melon pits Cygnus shinning bright 
Summer's here, another year, reach up and 
touch the sky 

Supper's on the table, there's always room for more 
Sleeping in the bunk room, playing sibling war 
Writing letters, playing life,watching clouds drift by 
Summer's here another year reach up and 
touch the sky 

Jumping from the hayloft, bonfires neath the moon 
Company's a coming , let's sing a welcome tune 
Acorn , sweet corn, birds begin to fly 
Summer's here, another year, reach up and 
touch the sky 
Rain falls on the garden, green fields turn to gold 
Rainbows decorate the sky, the young renew the old 
Everyone is crying, it's hard to say good-bye 
Summer's here, another year, reach up and 
touch the sky

11 - Mistakes Are Our Teachers

Most kids love wordplays and double entenders. So do I. It's encouraging to remember that no matter how successful someone is, he/she got that way by learning from mistakes - even teachers! Don't mistake my meaning. This song is a play on words. Teachers help us learn and grow. And understand our world


Words and Music copyright, 1998 

Mistakes are our teachers 
Our teachers are mistakes 
We have a chance to learn something 
From each mistake we make 

Thomas Alva Edison 
Made the light bulb shine 
But before he got it right 
He was wrong 500 times 

Wilber and Orville Wright 
Believed that they could fly 
It took years of falling down 
Before they reached the sky 

Rosa parks was right 
When she said " I will not move" 
The law was a mistake 
As Rosa's courage proved 

The great Henry Aaron 
The all time home run king 
For every homer Henry hit 
He took a thousand swings

12 - Happy Birthday

We learned this from Tom Chapin's recording many years ago and it's has been a part of our family birthday celebrations ever since.


Traditional, Melody is "Mary Widow Waltz" by Franz Lehar 

Happy birthday, happy birthday we love you 
Happy birthday and may all your dreams come true 
When you blow out the candles one light stays aglow 
That's the love light in your eyes where e'er you go

13 - Your Spirit Dances On

Words and Music copyright John Farrell 1998 

Most of the music for this piece was composed during a visit I took to northern Ireland in September1996. I was touring the islands off the west coast with folklorist and musician Mick Moloney and archaeologist Michael Gibbons. There are three parts to the music, which is the background for the narration. 

The first tune " The Long Walk," was inspired by a walk we took along a nineteenth - century famine road in County Mayo. 
There is a memorial there commemorating one of the countless tragedies that occurred during those years of The Great Hunger. In the late 1840's hundreds of starving tenants walked several miles on this road to plead for food and help from the landlord. They were turned down and told to go away. As they walked home they were caught in a hard rainstorm. Due to their weakened condition many fell and slipped from the muddy road into the nearby river where they drowned. 

The second tune, " Leaving Achill," came from a story Michael Gibbons told about an elderly woman he had met on one of his visits to spectacular Achill Island. She talked about growing up on Achill but having to leave when she was still a young girl. For many years she had dreamed of returning to her childhood home but was unable to do so until she was an old lady. This music is intended to evoke her melancholy feelings of longing as well as her memories of the joys of childhood and a special place. I wrote the music from the backseat of the tour bus as we were leaving Achill on an crystal clear autumn day. Of all the magnificent scenery in western Ireland, Achill Island is unsurpassed in my mind. 

"Rambling With Michael Gibbons" is the lively hornpipe at the end of the recording. It's a tribute to the archaeologist and the tour guide extraordinaire from Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. If you're ever there, try to find the time to take a walking tour with Michael. It's something you'll never forget. 

The narrative for this piece was written after the music was recorded. Originally the selection was going to be just instrumental. After listening to the music and contemplating what I had learned on my trip to Ireland, I decided I wanted to tell some of the story of my ancestors. I still know only a handful of facts about my great-grandparents, but I have learned a little about the places and times they lived. 

As I began to write, it led me to tell about my parents and grand parents too. Thinking about ancestors, future generations, and the common threads that link us together is somewhat like looking in a mirror and seeing another mirror behind your back, in which you see yourself looking in a mirror looking at a mirror. It just goes on and on in both directions. I'm convinced we're all connected by the music and the stars and the dance. That's why I call this piece "Your Spirit Dances On." 

The photograph on the left side of the cover art is Thomas and Kate Farrell. They came to America in the 1860's. The photo on the right side is my mom and dad soon after they were married in 1931, a midpoint of our family history in America so far. 

The names of Thomas and Catherine Farrell and Mary Leonard Farrell have been engraved on the Immigrant Wall of honor at Ellis Island in New York City.

(Lyrics coming soon!)

14 - Step By Step (Reprise)


Words and music copyright, John Farrell, 1998 

Step by step (Echo) 
One at a time " 
You don't have to run " 
There's plenty of time " 
If you fall down " 
Rise up and then " 
Step by step " 
Start movin'again " 

Life is a circle, the earth is a ball 
Seeds that are tiny grow so tall 
Seeds need the rain, seeds need the sun 
After the storm the rainbow will come 

Day by day (Echo) 
Follow the light " 
Riding the waves " 
Learning to fly " 
Feel how it feels " 
Reach for your dreams " 
Day by day " 
Let your heart sing " 

Step by step……………Day by day 
One at a time…………..Follow the light 
You don't have to run…Riding the waves 
There's plenty of time…Learning to fly 
If you fall down………. Feel how it feels 
Rise up and then……….Reach for your dreams 
Step by step……………Day by day 
Start movin' again……..Let you heart sing

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