Dance! Movement! Big band jazz! We've combined all of these elements into one very exciting piece of music. (And we've managed to include a bit of oboe work to coincide with your study of the oboe, which just happens to be featured in this issue on pages 60-61.) You could pick any or all of these things as your focus(es), depending on what you prefer.
We traditionally include a bit of jazz in our March/April issue each year (not sure why - it just sort of happened and turned out to be very, very popular). You could certainly put the spotlight on the jazz ensemble, especially if you are using the Performance/Accompaniment CD or Cassette that corresponds with this issue. For the best use of the recording in this way, let your students listen to the performance of the ensemble in the instrumental only version. They will hear:
- hythmic hand claps
- soprano saxophone
- 2 alto saxophones
- 2 tenor saxophones
- 4 trumpets
- 2 horns
- 3 tenor trombones
- 2 bass trombones
This is not exactly the same instrumentation a jazz ensemble might have, though there are a variety of options. A more traditional approach might include 5 trumpets and a baritone saxophone. The horns and oboe are also unusual for most jazz ensembles, as are the two bass trombones. (Most groups only have one, if any.)
We are particularly pleased with this Paul Jennings' arrangement and have no modesty when we tell you that Paul is one of the finest jazz arrangers anywhere. (Point of interest for you and your students: Paul produced a Grammy-winning big band jazz album: "All In Good Time" with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass during the 1980s. It also wouldn't surprise us to hear that your school's jazz library includes a number of classic jazz arrangements written by Paul. He's been writing for jazz bands - among other things - and published internationally for nearly 20 years. He is definitely world class, as you can easily hear.)
If you are not using the recording with this song, you will discover that the piano/vocal in this issue is not exactly designed for a pianist. It is meant to be more of a condensed score, indicating the lines that the winds and rhythm section play. You will need to go through the music and figure out what and how you can play live if that is how you wish to use it. If you could at least get a rhythm section and a couple of wind players involved, it would make a big difference in your performance. Piano alone isn't impossible, but it is certainly difficult and loses a bit of the punch in the translation.
For most of you, the true focus of this song will be the dance and movement. Obviously, the song provides the opportunity to include movement using hands, exclusively or otherwise.
While we provide a section in the song labeled specifically for movement (measure 54), it can be used in other places as well. We will discuss these later. For now, we would like to point out to you that the 8 measure phrases (over which the soprano saxophone is soloing) are ideal for performing the movements of the dance known as the "macarena."
If you or your students are familiar with this dance, you should be able to plug it right in as soon as you get to measure 54. What we learned when we recorded this song with our kids was that they all knew it already, despite the fact that they came from different towns and schools. The only variation we noted was the last few beats. You will see in the music that the claps for the end of the macarena are indicated over the vocal lines as they occur, such as in the first and second endings after 54. You can use these or ignore them, depending on your needs.
You will also see that there is an extended number of measures between the second ending of the movement section and measure 66. We recommend that you have your students freeze in some predetermined position for those few bars, assuming that you will have them resume the dance at 66. This will work nicely. One of the features of the macarena we learned was that during the last beat (the clap), the dancers turned to the side to perform further. You can let your students turn if you have the space to do so, but we don't think it's necessary. In fact, if you are performing on risers, you should not let them turn. Another consideration is that at 66 they are singing while they move, and if they have turned, they won't be singing to the audience anymore. This presumes you are presenting the song in a performance situation, of course. If it is used in the classroom only, you can pretty much do whatever you and your students like.
The 8 measure phrases at measures 66, 74, and 82 will take your dancers all the way to the last measure perfectly if they are using the macarena or any other 8 measure dance/movement.
If you find that moving and singing is challenging for your students, consider selecting a few individuals who will do the movements while the rest of your performers do the singing. If you have students who are particularly good dancers, they could even do their own choreography.
Remember that the song is in cut-time, so the beats will be two-based. A simple listen to the recording will clarify any concerns you might have by looking at the music only.
To Dance Or Not To Dance?
Other places movement could be added include most of the song, if you think about it. The song begins with two measures of conga roll and ascending winds, so there is a great set-up for movement to start at measure 3. However, there is not enough time at this point in the song (meas. 3 to 9) to get through the entire macarena, if that is your dance of choice. You can either eliminate movement from this section, or adapt it so that it will fit in those 6 measures.
The segment from measure 9 to measure 17 will work for the macarena as it includes 8 measures. Same thing with measures 17 to 25. At 25, there are comfortably 8 measures, but the same extended ending occurs as the second ending after 54 (mentioned earlier). This would be another place where a predetermined freeze would be effective as a transition.
Movement can be resumed at measure 36 and continue through 44. This will take you right back to 17 after the first ending with no difficulty, and on into 54 after the second ending.
The only question about using the macarena for all of these sections is whether or not you really want to do it that much, that often. Ask your students. They may prefer to use it more sparingly, which would certainly highlight its use when it does finally occur. Or they may want to do different movements in different sections. On the other hand, they may enjoy the constant activity.
By the way, this song will also work very well for line dancing, though it is supposed to be focusing on the hands. Consider writing a line dance (ask your students for input!) that is heavily concentrated on hand usage. Claps are especially good elements to include.
The Clapping (Don't Panic!)
Speaking of claps - on the score and on the recording, you will see and hear a difficult rhythm being clapped out by our extraordinary percussionist, Kevin Kaiser. No, these rhythms are not intended to be clapped by students. That is why they occur on the instrumental only version as well. We know that it is just too hard, unless you've got some students who are undaunted by the challenge and insist on clapping along. No problem. Let them if they can. We included it as a part of the rhythm section because we thought it was really cool and lent itself to the flavor of the piece beautifully. It is also an element reminiscent of the rhythm in a song on the radio these days that your kids are no doubt familiar with: "The Macarena."
The Song vs. the Dance
Okay. We admit it. One of our many inspirations for this song was the popularity of the dance. Fortunately for us, the dance steps are universal and cannot be copyrighted. The song, however, from which the dance became so popular is another story. We do not own, nor have access to the rights to use this song. And while obtaining the rights may not be impossible, we daresay they would, at the least, be quite expensive. So, we did the next best thing. We created our own vehicle for dancing. Frankly, we think we did a good job. (And we haven't gotten sick of "Dance With Your Hands" yet, despite the repeated playings. We can't quite say that for that infamous song on the radio...) We are happy to report that so far we have had very few requests to publish a version of the song, "The Macarena." We hope sincerely that the ability to use the dance in a completely new and different format will be of interest to you and your students.
But like we said before, use the macarena or don't use it. Change it, adapt it, alter it, leave it out. It's completely up to you.
One final note on movement: as we said earlier, there were some differences in the last few beats of the macarena that our vocalists demonstrated in the recording session. The differences were in the hip movement. Apparently, the last four beats of the dance are interpreted in a variety of ways, all of them using the hips. In our version, we have decided to keep it simple by having dancers do a simple "bump" to the left, then the right, then the left. If having your dancers use their hips doesn't set well with you (or your administration, parents, etc.), you will probably need to come up with an alternative action.
We did say we had more than one inspiration for this song. Another one was the fact that we wanted to have a pronounced oboe motif to tie into our oboe feature in this issue. (Refer to pages 60-61.)
There is another famous jazz piece from long ago called "Caravan" (written by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol) which you may know. We used it as a reference when working with this song because it shares some common elements. It uses a similar combination of styles: latin, middle eastern, and jazz.
The recognition of the middle eastern element led us to the idea of using the oboe, which plays a distinctly middle eastern motif during the introduction and verses. Most students would recognize the oboe as the classic "snake charmer" sound and make the connection to the style. (Though "Caravan" does not include the oboe, it hints at similar motifs. If you can put your hands on a recording of this old tune, your students might enjoy listening to it and comparing it to the song they are learning and singing.)