by Lou Mancinelli
Two working professionals from two different families, a mother and psychologist from Norway and a father in the insurance industry, partly raised in Italy, who met in a rock band in Philadelphia, are now also children’s songwriters with a social mission creating songs featuring light inspirational, playful lyrics for kids about ordinary daily tasks.
The Cris and Lou Project is a children’s duo formed by Cris Valkyria and Lou Paglione that performs at children’s events, parks, cafés, hospitals and other institutions around the tri-state area.
On Sunday, May 13, they performed at the Mother’s Day Breast Cancer Walk at the Art Museum. They’ll perform in Chestnut Hill at The Little Treehouse Café, 10 W. Gravers Lane, on Saturday, June 9, 6 p.m., and will begin a weekly residency there each month thereafter.
Cris and Lou, who asked that their ages not be mentioned, play the kind of music heard on WXPN’s Kid’s Corner program, a program on which they’ve been featured. Their songs are more like pop rock songs reminding kids to tidy up, brush their teeth and such, and without the variety of squeaky voices or giggles and other gimmicks often found in the genre.
“Every day when I get up, I need to brush my teeth, brush my teeth real well,” sings Paglione in the song “Brush Your Teeth.” “When I brush my teeth, I brush them up and down, up and down, up and down,” responds Valkyria with a honky-tonk whistle-like tone rising from low to high.
That tune is also on “Chris and Lou and The Virtues,” the debut album available on iTunes that the duo recorded using home-based equipment, much the way thousands of independent bands in cities across America are now doing.
Beyond performing, the duo employs a three-pronged approach that’s educational, promotes music and is charitable. They’ve created alliances with the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance (PCA) and Musicians On Call (MOC, an WXPN and University of Pennsylvania partner), and they donate proceeds from album sales to PCA. Through MOC, Cris and Lou meander from room to room at St. Christopher’s Hospital or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia twice a month to play songs for the kids in the wards.
It all started two years ago. “I decided I needed a theme song to help potty-train my boy,” said Valkyria about her then-two-year-old son. But the songs she found were hard for her to like. They were too circus-like, and as one who writes songs, she needed songs that had more musical quality. So she asked Paglione if he might be interested, and their musical chemistry proceeded to create several “songs parents would appreciate.”
As much as their music is about fun and spreading music, it is also about spreading healthy social and emotional behaviors like sharing. At their performances, in addition to performing original tunes, they sing traditional numbers like “Wheels on the Bus” and work to get the kids involved either through singing or contributing to the instrumentation.
And in addition to her work as a psychologist and her role as mother, wife and singer in the independent band The Valkyrians and the Cris and Lou Project, Valkyria is a co-founder of the Greater Philadelphia Councilors For Change, a group that will host a social skills group for children with autism in Mt. Airy next month.
“I guess I came for love,” said Valkyria, who practices psychology at Alyson Nerenberg Psychology in Chestnut Hill, about moving to America after she finished her studies in Norway about eight years ago when her boyfriend, now-husband, was hired to be a professor at Princeton University.
Paglione was born in Bristol, Bucks County, but moved with his family to Italy and back to America when he was 15. He is the father of two sons, 15 and 11. He has played instruments since he learned to play accordion at three. He plays bass and keyboards in The Valkryians, and his ability to play a number of instruments contributed to the duo’s facility with producing a first album. They’re now at work on their second.
It might seem ridiculous or silly for mature bill-paying white-collar individuals who also play in a rock band to sing about potty-training. But maybe it’s even more ridiculous to assume that an inner-child should disappear as we age.
“We see how it works, especially in hospitals,” said Paglione about performing the songs. “A crying child that will all of a sudden stop crying … it’s not embarrassing at all.”
For more information about the music of Cris and Lou, visit www.crisandlou.com.