Viva Vernal Equinox

by Teresa Jennings

We think that the title of this song is pretty revealing of its content. "Viva" implies that it will be a Latin style tune, which it is. "Vernal Equinox" suggests that it is a seasonal piece, specifically the spring season. More than that, because "Vernal Equinox" is a scientific term, you might get the idea there is more to this song than a lovely or poetic song of spring. And you would be right.

Naturally, the melody is musically interesting and fun to sing. But more than that, the lyrics are educational, teaching us the basics of the vernal equinox. Right away, your kids will get that when they sing "One revolution. Earth travels once a year around the sun." That makes this song a great tool for cross curricular teaching and learning. (Which should make you look pretty good to the classroom teachers smart enough to take you up on helping with the reinforcement of this topic through music. So, make sure they know you have it.)

At the very least, use the tune to get kids talking about all of the scientific elements and principles mentioned in the song. Simple: What is the equator and where is it? More challenging: Why would daytime and nighttime seem to be almost the same length to us during the vernal equinox?

At the very most, if you want to take this to extremes, you sure can. Make it a part of a performance or all-school focus on science or the environment or the solar system, etc. Make the setting a big deal with a backdrop of drawings or paintings of the earth, moon, and sun. Or maybe add other planets, too. And other moons. Or create a mobile and hang all of the celestial bodies around the performance area. Shine some spotlights on them for effect.

Here's a wild thought: Select a few dancers to do some choreographed movement during the song using a globe and models of the sun, moon, etc., as dance props. A simple thing would be to have the dancer with the globe (earth) move around the dancer with the sun to represent the revolution. Rotations, on the other hand, might make your dancers dizzy, so be careful. Or go more for the "spring" side of things, and let dancers hold bunches of flowers instead. Simple or extreme is up to you.

Musically, the tune is all in unison for ease of learning and remembering. Just in case, however, we have reinforced the melody throughout with instruments on the recording. That way, there is always something to lean on in case the modal nature of the song is tougher for some singers.

When you listen to the instrumental track version of this piece, you can probably tell that college jazz ensembles are part of the fabric of Teresa's musical experience. We would swear this tune works as an instrumental chart in its own right if it didn't have the vocals! So to our way of thinking, the vocals are icing on the cake. Or would that be flowers in the spring?

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.