We The People
music by John Riggio
This song was requested by a few of you on our Music K-8 Mailing List, and is proof positive that we listen to your requests! Remembering the premise that the best way to memorize something is to put it to music and sing it, we present you with "We The People." This is another excellent example of teaching across the curriculum through music. Be sure your classroom teachers know you can help them reinforce their studies of the Constitution, American history, and so on, by using this song.
The text of the Preamble to the United States Constitution was written by Gouverneur Morris, a New York native who was selected by Pennsylvania to be a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The United States had some problems to work out following the American Revolutionary War, including defining the role and powers of the Federal Government. That the United States exists today is a miracle, its Founding Fathers overcoming resistance from without and within. Gouverneur Morris' own mother was a Loyalist (loyal to the British crown during the Revolution), while he wanted to form a new nation free from British rule. It could not have been easy for our Founding Fathers when even families were divided over the issue of independence.
This piece has a slower, more stately feel to it, partly because the words are important and worthy of consideration for all Americans, and partly because we wanted it to be singable, which will help your students to learn - and remember - the words. The call and response at measure 9 (on the repeat) will also help with this endeavor. Dynamics are an important part of performing this piece. They add power and drama, especially the forte sections at measures 22 and 35. Let your students listen to the recording to hear how much impact this type of musical nuance can provide.
While parts 2 and 3 are optional, they are worth learning as they promote the grandeur of this topic. (The forming of a nation is no small feat, so we didn't want the song to be either!) Consider selecting a soloist or a soli group to do either of these, but especially part 3. For ease of rehearsing, you will find downloadable isolated MP3s for both of these on our web site: MusicK8.com (See details following.)
The song has a constant barrage of snare drums keeping time behind a drum set, plus the occasional Liberty Bell orchestral chimes to add to the patriotic feeling. We've added brass and strings to round out an orchestral sound, but in true Plank Road fashion, we've layered electric guitars in with the orchestra, so it incorporates the power of rock with the power of symphony. It's very inspiring.
To perform this song you might consider creating a backdrop with the words "We The People" written in the calligraphy style of the original Preamble on parchment. (The lyric sheet on page 28 uses a similar approach.) Have students wear red, white, and blue. While we do an awful lot of silly songs here at Plank Road, this is not one of them. Students should approach this piece with a serious mind, armed with the knowledge of what those who have gone before us have sacrificed so that we can enjoy living in this great nation.
Online extras - The free, downloadable tracks mentioned can be found under the "Graphics and Extras" for Volume 18, No. 1 at MusicK8.com
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.