Northern Lights

by John Riggio

"Northern lights" is another name for the phenomenon known as "aurora borealis." According to Webster's dictionary, aurora borealis is defined as "luminous bands or streamers of light sometimes appearing in the night sky of the northern hemisphere, believed to be electrical discharges in the ionized air." Since they tend to appear in the far north, we sometimes associate them with snow covered landscapes, hence the appearance of this song in our November/December issue of Music K-8. The style of the piece is actually pop/rock, even though we were a bit silly with our description - Polar rock. It just seemed so...appropriate.

Many of the melodic rhythms are syncopated, so you may not want to try it with younger students. Still, it is quite repetitious, so learning it by rote is do-able. The range is from middle C to the C above.

On our Performance/Accompaniment CD and cassette, we feature 3 versions of this song. The 2nd version is a special one featuring one of our soloists, Katy Gentry. We did this in order to give you ideas for how a solo might be performed, should you have a talented youngster eager to try it! In our version, we let Katy begin the song and sing it pretty much as is all the way through the chorus. Then, we brought in the rest of the singers at the second verse. At this point, we allowed Katy to take a bit more freedom with her solo, complementing the choir. As you can hear, it's very effective.

There is a 16 measure guitar solo/movement section at measure 50 after the second verse and chorus. One performance idea is to have your students create their own "aurora." If you've ever seen the bright fluorescent glowing ropes and necklaces that are often sold at carnivals and fairs, using these might be a good option to create the aurora. (We did find one source for these ropes. They are called "glow lite ropes," and they can be purchased through U.S. Toy Co., Inc.; phone: 800 255-6124; e-mail: Turn off the lights at the beginning of the section, and let your kids have a rope in each hand swirling them overhead while moving around the stage. Auroras shimmer and change shape, so the movement should look neat. Since it needs to be fairly dark for this to work, you may want to mark the boundaries of the stage area with glowing stage tape, so your students have some sense of where they are.

Another idea would be to use black lights and have students wear all black clothing and gloves painted with fluorescent paint. Have them wiggle their fingers overhead as they move around. Plain cotton gardening gloves should work fine, but they should be black so only the paint is illuminated and not the glove (unless you know where to find fluorescent colored gloves!). With this option, the black light should provide enough visible light for students to see by, while maintaining the aurora effect. These are just two suggestions, and you may have more ideas of how to create your own.

(Note: If you happen to be one of our subscribers in the southern hemisphere, you probably realize that there are also southern lights - aurora australis. Northern and southern lights mirror each other's movements and patterns exactly in their respective hemispheres. Feel free to substitute the word "southern" for "northern" wherever you see it!)

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.