Lighten Up

by Teresa Jennings/arr. & orch. by Paul Jennings

As always, we begin the new school year with the opening song of our latest, greatest all-school revue. Our intention is to then bring you more music and content for the revue in the second and third issues of Music K-8. By the time you have your third issue, we will have provided you with enough material to put on your own show! Of course, you may use the material any way you like - in your classroom, in a performance, in pieces, as it is, with more music added, with music removed, lengthened, shortened, and so on. The revue we provide is always a foundation on which you can build.

This year, we have gone in a whole new direction. At the behest of many of our subscribers, we have decided to help children focus on the lighter side of life with our all-school revue, Lighten Up. The opening song of the revue, which shares the same name, sets the tone for what will follow: humor!

You will notice on your Performance/Accompaniment Compact Disc that the first part of the song is separated from the second part, even though they are very close together. Technically, the first part segues into the second part. But we wished to give you flexibility in performance, so we indexed the two segments separately. That way, if you choose to eliminate the introduction (part 1), or if you wish to perform the introduction live, and then use the CD for the rest of the song, you will have quick access on your equipment.

Speaking of the introduction - here is where the silliness of it all can be established. We have suggested that you have a soloist with a blue face enter and sing serenely, "Sometimes you feel a little blue..." Pick a soloist with a sense of style and drama. Let him perform freely, altering rhythms, stretching things out a little, or punctuating uniquely as he sees fit. On our recording, our soloist was Reid Morgan, who had no difficulty having fun with it. Let your students listen to him as an example, but don't stifle their own creativity!

The background singers can be a small group, such as three or four performers, or it can be the entirety of your ensemble. We chose a small group and asked them to alter their voices to offer a touch of humor. They enjoyed this very much, as you can probably hear.

If you are using the CD, you will want your soloists to stay with the piano accompaniment, despite the freedom, or it won't fit. If you are performing the piano part live, you can play with tempos and such a little more. The viola solo at the end of the segment can be played live on a viola, or on a violin, if you happen to have a player. If not, you can just skip those measures and go right into the next section. Of course, if you use the recording, you will be treated to the over-emotional tongue-in-cheek performance of violist Michael Strauss, who definitely had a good time being silly. You could even let one of your performers (such as the blue-faced singer) humorously pantomime the viola solo.

At measure 24, the tune abruptly becomes a lively swing tune, complete with jazz ensemble accompaniment. All of your singers can join in at this point to share the message, "Lighten up! Don't take yourself so seriously." The melody and lyrics are quite simple, so you should be able to let just about any of your students sing along. The biggest challenge for some might be swinging (singing the eighth notes with a triplet undercurrent), but the rhythm section on the recording will really help them feel the style.

Here's where the fun stuff really begins, too. At the first ending, we get our first hint of the spoken solos to come. After the second ending, we get our first real joke. In the case of all the jokes and spoken solos, we highly recommend you and your students listen to the suggested performances on the recording to hear how everything fits together. Then, pick your soloists based on whatever criteria you consider most critical, such as delivery, timing, ability to say things clearly, and so on. We used a different person for each part of each joke so that everyone got a chance to be a part of the jokes. But you don't have to do it that way. For example, you can use the same jokesters throughout if you're going for more of a "comedy team" effect (Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and so on). Do it however it works for you. If you have a drummer in your midst, have her play a "pa dum bump" after the punchline of each joke.

Also, feel free to replace our jokes with your own jokes. In fact, have a contest to come up with the funniest jokes and use the winners in your performance. Get more than one class involved, or even the whole school! Let everyone be invested in your program.

When the song goes back for the D.S. (measure 25 the third time), on the recording there is an instrumental background. Over this background, your students insert their own humorous sounds. We have suggested several, but again, you can replace them with whatever you like. We asked our singers to perform the sounds in a variety of styles: high, low, squeaky, nasal, etc. Do the same with your singers.

For added visual fun during this section, let your students wear silly masks, hats, glasses, fakes noses, and so on. One that comes to mind easily is the classic eyebrow/glasses/big nose ensemble.

The one joke you ought to keep as is happens at the ending: Why did the chicken cross the road? Pick a soloist who can deliver the line clearly and in rhythm. Everything else should stop there and then the respondents should be quite exuberant, but also rhythmic. Even the final raspberry is right on beat 4.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.