Top O' The Music To You

by Teresa & Paul Jennings

The words "labor of love" might be used to describe how we feel about this song. It captures two of our favorite topics (music and kind thoughts) in one of our favorite styles (jazz). Though you may notice that we have used a combination of instruments (such as saxes with strings) in the arrangement on the Performance/Accompaniment recording that would actually seem to be more of a Broadway style big band than a traditional one. You know, like something Tony Bennett would sing along with.

Lyrically, it seemed like a natural extension of the well-known phrase, "top o' the morning to you." So once we started playing with the sentiment in a musical way, it just came flowing. And the next thing we knew, we had a serious toe-tapper that we just couldn't stop singing!

Of course, being the music education professional that you probably are, you are already aware that March is Music In Our Schools Month® (MIOSM). Which means that the moment you saw the title of this song, you probably already started thinking that it would be a great piece to use with your students for MIOSM. Once you listen to it, however, you'll realize that it is also one of those great multipurpose songs that you can use in lots of different ways. After all, music is what your program is all about. So every time you have a concert, an assembly, a variety show, a show you take on the road around the community, or whatever other exciting applications you can think of, you have a ready-to-use opener and/or closer at your disposal. Plug in some simple choreography, if you can swing it. Add a little glitzy lighting (Christmas lights are great and inexpensive) or easy-to-make sets (like glitter-covered notes on the walls). Now all you need to do is add your own little Tony Bennetts, and voila! Instant showstopper!

If you do use the tune as a reinforcement of your music studies, you will note that the lyrics can be quite helpful. Various instruments are referenced and demonstrated on the recording so your students can hear them. (For example, "May you hear saxes. May you hear flutes.") If you have time, we suggest playing the instrumental version of this tune. That way students can clearly hear and identify the instruments. Also, just listening to the arrangement and performance by our stellar group of musicians is lots of fun. (We think Paul really outdid himself on this chart!)

Besides just singing with lots of enthusiasm and energy, we do have some suggestions for performance. For one thing, it might be helpful for you to know that we used the pronunciation "toppa" for "top o'" each time. If you prefer a long o sound, that's fine. But do make sure singers distinguish their pronunciation when the word "of" is deliberately used, such as in measures 52 and 53.

You will note that at the D.S., the style of the tune changes for about eight bars. It becomes a little quieter and is played staccato. We had our singers do this along with the instrumentalists, but if that is too much for yours, you can just let them sing normally. On the fourth time (the repeat back to 5 on the D.S.), the style becomes very smooth, also for about eight bars. Have singers do this in a legato style, if you wish. Then when they get to measure 13 (all times), they are back to normal.

Also stylistically, at measure 25 each time, the orchestra swells and becomes a lush symphony for a few measures. A more legato approach here would be effective for singers as well.

As always, with all of our music, feel free to adapt the tune any way you need to in order for it to work with your singers. On the music, at the bottom of the first page, you will see that we suggest that you can use the first two verses again instead of the third and fourth verses. This would be helpful if memorizing lyrics seems to be a problem. However, if you do this, you might consider using the original lyrics for just the named instruments in measures 13 - 16 so that they correspond with what is heard on the recording. Then go back to using the first and second verses in measures 16 - 20 for rhyming purposes.

We think one of the neatest parts of this tune is the two bar instrumental interlude after the word "swing" in measure 31 each time. Paul took a couple of familiar bop phrases and parodied them for our jazz band to wail on. (If you have any jazzers in your midst, ask them if they can identify the tunes being imitated. Bet they can!)

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.