by Teresa Jennings
Most of our revues include a thought-provoking, and/or emotional song at some point. Usually, we include such a song in the third issue of the year. However, given the theme of the song this time, the timing of its release seemed more appropriate in the first issue. We wanted it to be available to schools that wished to use it as part of their memorials on the first anniversary of September 11. Of course, the theme is such that it could be used for any occasion of patriotism and remembrance, such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or The Fourth of July.
Teresa tells us that her own father was the inspiration for "American Tears" as much as any of the heroes of September 11. He was only 18 when he went off to Europe to fight in World War II. The stories he tells are frighteningly familiar: An ordinary person is thrust into a position of terror, impossible circumstances, and facing death. He is forced to rise to the occasion, putting his own life on the line for his family, his friends, his country. Teresa's father was lucky. His story had a happy ending. He came home alive and healthy. He got married, had five children, and is celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary this very August (2002).
Unfortunately, not all of our heroes, patriots, soldiers, and pioneers were so lucky. They put their lives on the line, too, and many of them never got to go home. A lot of Americans shed a lot of tears on September 11, 2001, and in the weeks and months that followed it. It made us all think of the sacrifices so many Americans made - not just then - but during all of America's history. We live in a land of freedom today because of them. They deserve our thanks, our respect, and our tears.
The song "American Tears" is a tribute to these people. You may find it too emotional to use at this time, and that's okay. We all heal at our own pace. But we also know that music can be so helpful and important in that healing process. It can bring us together in ways we never dreamed possible. It has done this time and again in the last year. Perhaps the song will best benefit you and your students if you only use it in the classroom. Or even just listen to it there.
If you do wish to use it in performance, consider adding an introduction. If you have any veterans, police officers, firefighters, and so on in the audience, honor them by naming them at this point. At the very least, have them stand and be recognized.
"American Tears" is not a difficult song melodically. The only challenge might be memorizing the four verses. The chorus is quite memorable and will be easily learned. We have chosen to feature a soloist, Rachel Moody, on the recording. If you have a soloist (or more than one) that you would like to feature, that's fine. But you do not have to do it that way. The song will work in unison. The optional solo descant which begins at measure 43 can be performed as is, by a soli group, or ad libbed by a soloist, as you prefer.
We really feel that the recording of this piece will add a lot to your performance as well. There are beautiful recurring countermelodies in oboe, viola, English horn, and flugelhorn throughout the piece. There is a slight ritard just before measure 45 which is lead by the drummer. At 45, we have suggested that you could add claps on beat 3 of each bar if you like. For a large anthem ballad like this, that would be very appropriate, but not necessary. If you are not using the recording, be sure to start gently and build as indicated. Use the recording as a reference, as it builds and subsides a few times for dramatic effect. The peak of the tune hits at bar 64 (where the claps should also stop) and then gradually decrescendos to the end. The solo at the end is also optional.
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.