When you’re seeking out sheet music for a particular piece, you might find it in a songbook, or in old-fashioned single sheet form, and increasingly you can purchase arrangements via digital download. But occasionally the music notation arrives in a more unusual package. In the case of “There’s a Train Out for Dreamland,” I could only find the sheet music in the form of a children’s picture book.
With a destination like Dreamland, it’s no surprise that this song is a lullaby. But neither would the song be out of place in a jazz nightclub; written by Friedrich H. Heider and jazz guitarist Carl Kress, “Dreamland” was originally featured on Nat King Cole’s 1947 album, “King Cole for Kids.” Nat King Cole’s voice is velvety, warm, and smiling as he croons this sleepytime tale and extols the pleasures of heading off into the soothing and magical world of slumber.
This being a Nat King Cole Trio record (and one arranged by Frank DeVol), the song enfolds you in its lavish yet spacious arrangement. This being a lullaby, the jazz details are woven in softly, sweetly. The bell-like chimes of a celesta sprinkle snowflakes over the scene as lush layers of strings sweep up and around, suggesting dramatic views from this train. All the while the music chugs and grooves along, punctuated by Cole’s sophisticated piano stylings, which themselves evoke both the motion and the sounds of a train.
The lyrics are presented here as a bedtime story. In gentle, evocative illustrations (by Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer), a train travels into the hushed blues of twilight, ferrying pajama-clad children past whimsical, colorful confectionary visions like a licorice house and a jelly bean giraffe. The choo-choo makes stops at “ice cream stations” before soaring off to Dreamland with its precious cargo.
The picture book includes two pages of piano/vocal sheet music for the song, along with chord symbols. It’s fairly straightforward notation, without most of the sumptuous flourishes from the original recording, but the arrangement does capture the jazz tone, and it’s a pleasure to play.