The Top 10 Songs of: Cantus the Minstrel

The Top 10

Kieran Moore – CantusI must admit as I sit here looking at a blank screen that I have mixed feelings about writing this chart about Cantus Fraggle. After all, how do I philosophize about the most philosophical character in the Henson canon? How do I answer the question of someone who answers every question with a question himself? I’ve always considered Cantus to be the spiritual cousin of Rowlf the Dog and Dr. Teeth. All three are performed by Jim Henson and certainly love to wax lyrical on life, love and matters of the soul; but where Rowlf is humorous and Dr. Teeth is loquacious, Cantus is much more enigmatic. His cryptic musings are both oblique and cuttingly insightful at the same time. I guess ultimately he’s a bit like Glinda from “The Wizard of Oz” in that he’ll help you discover you had the answer all along.

As a Minstrel, Cantus is obviously very musical and the episodes of Fraggle Rock that he appears in feature some of the show’s most beloved music so what am I waffling on for? It’s time for a grand entrance…

10 – Cantus’ Entrance Music – Cantus Fraggle
As far as I can remember this is the first ever instrumental piece to be featured in my charts. And what a piece it is! I love the medieval sound that makes it feels like it would not be out of place at a Renaissance Fair or jousting tournament. I could quite happily listen to Cantus playing this song all day – though I suggest he might want to expand it a bit. The good news is if anyone can expand a piece of music it’s him. He plays from the heart and I’m sure if asked he’d say “The rhythm of the heart is the heart of the beat” or something equally mysterious and wise sounding.  The actual tune of this piece is a riff on the song “Ball of Fire” which you might just hear later on, but in the meantime let’s bask in the glory of Cantus and this musical materialization!

9 – The Festival of the Bells – Cantus Fraggle and The Fraggle Rock Bell Ringers Orchestra
Ok, so The Fraggle Rock Bell Ringers Orchestra isn’t really a thing, but as this is another instrumental I couldn’t exactly call them a chorus. I think when I grow up and become a Fraggle I might start one up as I’ll need something to do for my 30 minute work week. Cantus is more of a conductor for this piece, but it feels very much like he is the heart of it. Heart is a word that has come up already in this chart – there’s surely something in that… Another word that Cantus seems to use a lot (and it’s in his conversation with Gobo here is “Listen”). Without wanting to come over all “Grandmother Willow” those two words I think are key to really understanding Cantus’ character. This song is probably the most Christmassy thing the Fraggles ever did. “Pass it On” may have got the Fraggle spot in “Muppet Family Christmas”, but this couldn’t be any more festive if Rudolph sang it while trimming his tree and decking his halls. Finally, am I the only one that thinks frozen Fraggles are way creepy?

8 – Water Drip Song – Cantus Fraggle & The Minstrels
And this completes our trio of instrumental pieces. All three are very different – which is another reason Cantus is such a cool guy. He can make music out of any situation and here he and The Minstrels riff on something as mundane as water dripping to create a fun, poppy number. As you’ll hear from Cantus’ introduction the word “Listen” comes up again. It’s clear that this is a guy who is all about being aware of himself and his surroundings and working out how those two separate elements are connected. That’s the message that ultimately runs through all of the songs in this chart, but musically at least this is the best example we’ll get. Mokey is my spiritual sister and I remember when I watched this episode being upset that she was leaving the show, but also realizing that if Mokey could be a Minstrel so could I. I’d almost go as far as saying that this episode of Fraggle Rock helped steer me towards making music myself in a round about way.

7 – There’s a Promise – Cantus & the Fraggles
This song previously appeared on my very first Christmas chart back in 2014 and at that point I called it “joyous”. I think that still holds true. It’s a strange fact (that might not be true) that often the best Christmas songs don’t mention the holiday at all and this definitely fits that bill. This song comes from the episode “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” and thanks to its “Christmas Special” status it’s one of the best known individual episodes of Fraggle Rock’s entire run. It still gets repeat airings during the holidays and has had several home video releases over and above its appearances on season box sets. The sole reason for this song’s low placement on my chart is Cantus’ relatively minor role, but it’s probably fair to say that he makes any Fraggle song infinitely more special so this is still one of the best Fraggle songs ever. I love its beautiful simplicity.

6 – Ball of Fire – Cantus Fraggle and Junior Gorg
Musically this is quite a departure for Cantus with its bluesy gospel feel. It sounds much more like something you’d hear from Jim’s other recurring Fraggle, Convincing John. I find this song interesting for other reasons too. Up until now we’re quite happy to accept that Cantus is just a regular Fraggle (albeit one that appears to operate on a higher plane) who doesn’t seem to have any particular magical properties himself. Gobo refers to the “magic pipe” in this episode, but it seems much more that magic happens around Cantus instead of him being magical himself. The implication here is that Cantus is illuminated as a shadow and that accounts for his larger than usual size, but Junior most definitely makes contact when they high five. It makes me wonder if the sheet is actually hiding the fact that he’s a Gorg-sized Fraggle at that point? It’s a theory…

5 – The Rock Goes On – Cantus Fraggle & The Minstrels, Boober Fraggle, Red Fraggle, Mokey Fraggle, Wembley Fraggle, Inkspot and Fraggle Chorus
This song is variously titled “The Rock Goes On” or “Song of Songs”, but I’ve gone with the title used on Muppet Wiki as they surely know better than I. This is a fantastic number that is infectious in its jubilant nature. It has a fun jazz vibe with scatting verses, a Dixieland finale with some Doo-Wop thrown in for good measure. As we’ve seen so far, Cantus is often quite a serious Fraggle even if he’s a little silly with it. Instead, here he’s really letting rip and his horn just makes the number soar with joy. It’s impossible to listen to this song without a) dancing and b) smiling. When the Inkspot pops up at the start I just have to laugh! This song very much feels like Fraggle Rock coming full circle to me. The lyrics of the theme tune are referenced and with its title of The Rock Goes On, this really feels like the happy goodbye the creators want to give us before they get on to the more sombre finale next week. In fact, as much as I’d miss the songs from “Change of Address” I don’t think I’d have minded too much if they’d ended Fraggle Rock here.

4 – Music Makes us Real (Ping!) – Cantus Fraggle and The Minstrels
It’s funny when you see Cantus Fraggle and The Minstrels written down like that because it makes me think of Buddy Holly and The Crickets or Gladys Knight and The Pips yet they’ve never really been billed that way. Anyway, that’s not particularly relevant to this song, it just tickled me! Never have I loved a “Ping” as much as I love the one in this song title. I do have to wonder though if Mokey can just hear her internal microwave rather than the ping that Cantus is talking about! I’ve loved this song since forever. In fact, it’s one of the most played songs on my old school iPod (isn’t it funny that an iPod can be old school?). As a singer I’ve always felt an affinity with the lyrics and their message of music being integral to life and who we are inside.

3 – Lose Your Heart (and it’s Found) – Cantus Fraggle and The Minstrels
It’s that word again. Heart. And I guess that’s an excellent cue to talk about Cantus’ performer – Jim Henson. I don’t know if it’s true, but I think all of us would like to imagine that Jim and Cantus are one and the same personality wise. Certainly he’s acknowledged as the kind of guy that inspired others to do their best and believe in themselves – all things that Cantus does here for Mokey. Having never met Jim, it’s impossible for me to say this with any first-hand knowledge, but I think his work is all the evidence we need to know that he inspired greatness. By all accounts, Jim saw things in others that they didn’t see themselves and as these 10 songs show, that’s Cantus to a tee. This is a beautiful song with a sweet melody and a great message. When taken in the context of the similarities between Cantus and Jim it really deserves to be heralded more.

2 – Our Melody – Cantus Fraggle, Red Fraggle, Mokey Fraggle, Gobo Fraggle, Wembley Fraggle, Boober Fraggle and Fraggle Chorus
This is such a fantastic song that it really does deserve to be number one – it’s taken something very special to beat it. One day this will take top spot on a chart I’m sure. The idea of each of the Fraggles having their own song and then letting them intertwine the way they do is not just a metaphor for the show – it’s sheer brilliance. It takes my breath away to think of just how perfect it is. I also love that Red gets to start it. It would be easy and obvious to have Gobo or Mokey take the lead here, but the idea of finding your own song is much more powerful coming from Red, a character who is less in touch with that side of herself. Musically, this is brilliant to sing along with. Back when my a cappella trio was a quintet we looked at singing this and I’m a bit sad it never really happened. I have to praise Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee for their incredible writing talents and the whole cast for making this song such an amazing piece of work. Bravo!

1 – Let Me Be Your Song – Cantus and The Minstrels
This song is genuinely in my top three Henson songs ever (I wouldn’t know where exactly it falls as that would be too hard). As such I find it difficult to put into words just how it makes me feel. It’s genuinely as though I’m on a higher plane while I’m listening to it. It’s always felt like this is my theme song and I guess that makes it the ultimate Minstrel song for me. When Cantus tells us to look inside ourselves and find our inner song and make a connection with the outside world this is what I hear. The lyrics are sublime and deserve to be treated as the exquisite poetry that they are. This is not a throwaway kids’ song. Musically, it’s stunning too. The extended intro that is heard on this video is so incredible it makes me a little sad that it’s just used as a prologue. As I listen to it I feel just like the Fraggles do – full of wonder and awe. As an introduction to the character of Cantus this really couldn’t be better.
Let me be your song, is just an incredible sentiment and I guess it really does sum Cantus up. It’s about being yourself, but being malleable. Knowing yourself, but being prepared to change. It’s about spirituality, a sense of purpose and, above all, heart. Last week I wrote that Fozzie Bear was full of heart and Cantus is right there with him, but in a different way. Instead of wearing his heart on his sleeve Cantus’ heart is everywhere – in the “rock and rain and the blowing snowstorm”.

I think Cantus’ real magic is in the way he comes in, touches our lives and then leaves us all the richer for the experience. To fully understand him is to devalue him I think. So I just have to say Thank You. Cantus, for pretty much giving me my whole philosophy on life I thank you and I thank you again.

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