All Dressed Up

by Teresa Jennings/arr. Paul Jennings

Veteran subscribers of Music K-8 know that we like to "swing into spring" (so to speak) by offering some lively big band jazz in our fourth issue of the year. This year, our opening toe tapper is a tribute to fashion - high, or not so high, as you wish. Inspired by the many videos we receive of students dressed in their finest concert attire, we decided to give them a vehicle in which they could do a bit of showing off! To make it more of an event, we have included an optional narration and an instrumental interlude for the "fashion show" segment.

The song itself is simple and upbeat and can be performed in unison throughout. We have indicated an optional part 2, which should only be sung on the third time through the song, and which we feel adds that certain something it needs to bring it on home at that point. Part 2 is not necessarily more challenging than part 1, but whether you feel comfortable with it or not depends on your students' part-singing experience and ability. As we usually do, we can suggest that you make it more accessible by including some older singers as well. They will learn faster, sing more confidently, and reinforce the lines for younger singers (if some of them are also singing part 2).

Be sure to point out to your singers that the song is a swing tune. Do they remember what "swing" means? The indication at the top of the music should help. It shows that two eighth notes are sung as a quarter note/eighth note triplet. Swing implies a triplet-based undercurrent. Our singers do a pretty good job of demonstrating this on the Performance/Accompaniment CD. The swinging jazz band really helps, too. Be sure to let them listen.

The performance options for this song are only as limited as you want them to be. It's arranged and produced to be a big, jazzy, Broadway-style piece - ready for a major production. Or not. At its simplest, just using the narration while a few students walk by in front of your performance group/area will work just fine. At its most elaborate, you could make it the focus of an entire program! Really get into the fashion and style show part of it all. Have students invent super fancy costumes. They can be truly elegant or outrageous, as many fashion statements sometimes are. For example, add a tutu to a leather jacket. Or a long feather boa to a flannel shirt. Maybe a swimming innertube and goggles over a nightgown. A straw skirt and winter coat. Think fun and silly. Add sequins, glitter, flowing fabrics, and lots of color. Or - on the flip side - let them be totally classy - tuxedos and evening gowns. (Keep the fur faux if you want to avoid any problems there.) Or mix and match the styles. Anything goes!

If you can add some specialty lights, maybe a spotlight, colored lights, or mirrored ball, it would add a little pizzazz, too. Blinking Christmas lights all over would even help. Add a real runway if you can, not necessarily elevated, of course - just a perpendicular walkway out in front of the group. Have each "model" walk out solo, or in groups as you like. Be sure to rehearse this, so everyone knows where they're coming from and going to (preferably without collisions).

Our two narrators/fashion critics on the recording were Grace Morgan and Megan Byers. They did a terrific job of demonstrating what we had in mind. Of particular note is the timing of their delivery. It is indicated on the music, but hearing it should also help students learn it. It's important to note that it falls into natural resting spots of the instrumental music behind it. See if your speakers can do this, too.

You can use as many speakers as you like for these lines. Two seemed natural, but whatever works! The important thing is that they are reacting to the fashion show that's going on in front of them. It might be best to equip them with microphones so the audience can hear what they are saying. It's also perfectly okay for them to ad lib or use dialog other than what we've provided. This might be especially effective if you want to make note of a particular person, such as your principal, who is participating in the show. ("I didn't realize Mr. Crowell had so much class!" "Neither did I!") Let your speakers also be dressed up, as fashion critics might be. Again, either outrageous or classy is just fine. At the end of the fashion show, there is an indication of applause on the music. Keep it polite, under the narration, and cued to start and stop by you. The fashion show could stop at this point, as we planned in the music. But if you want, you could bring the models back out again, either right away or at the end of the song. At the very least, have them stand visibly along the sides so they can take a bow when all is done.

As you might imagine, we're very happy with the recording for this song. Paul's arrangement is nothing short of superb, as is his Basie-esque piano work. We love to listen to just the background tracks so we can hear the details and nuances in the ensemble. Good stuff. If you have a chance to share these tracks with your students from a purely listening point of view, do it. You never know what budding jazzers you might have in your midst!

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.