The Lights Of Freedom
by Teresa Jennings
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.
"The Lights Of Freedom" is the finale for the revue. If you approach the tune as a unison piece (except for the reciting of the states) with no bells and whistles, it will still be quite effective. However, with a bit of planning on your part, it could be exceptional. We have indicated a number of ideas throughout the music for you to employ if you wish. For example, at the very beginning, you could use soloists or a solo group. For the Performance/Accompaniment CD, we opted to use a select group, which sets an excellent example for your performers.
The next vocal entrance is the pick-up to measure 31. It is unison and simple. Have singers add a little accent to each note (using stomach muscles) for exaggerated separation and marcato style.
At measure 43 each time, have one person speak each state. You can do this however it flows best for your situation. Pick a few select students or let every student participate. The important part will be your cue of each state. Make sure you have good eye contact with each speaker and give them very clear visual guidance to stay with the music. Use your hands and mouth for the best results. Our recording provides a good reference for how it all works.
The next time there is a vocal entrance is in measure 77. Again, though we have included two parts, it will work in unison. This also applies to the ending of the piece at measure 123. When it divides into four notes, pick the note or notes that your singers are comfortable with. As always, if your students are intimidated by part singing, and you want to include it, we recommend inviting older students (or even adults) to join in.
Since the theme of the song refers to lights, you may wish to incorporate some type of special lighting into your performance. Battery operated candles or small flashlights would be effective. Larger lights, such as spotlights are also good. Small strings of lights, such as Christmas lights can also be used. How about a light shining on a large flag or a map of The United States? Consider adding the light(s) at key points through the song for dramatic impact. We have made a few suggestions on the music for this. For example, as each state is named, a light is lit. The speaker can do it, or someone else can. Use something that can come on instantly, such as a flashlight. Once a light is on, let it remain on for the duration of the song. (You could also let your soloists or chorus at the beginning hold lights as they are singing. Cue the lighting before they begin to sing.)
Other ways you could punctuate this section would be to have students add stars to each state on a big map as it is spoken. Or maybe you could have all the state flags or signs with state names in their respective colors appear at the proper moments. Maybe each speaker wears a shirt with a picture of his or her spoken state on it. Think of it as a processional for the states. Above all, make sure the speakers project and clearly enunciate the names of the states so that they are well understood.
On beat 1 of measure 75, any and all other performers whose lights are not on can turn them on together on your cue. If there are many of them, this will be quite impressive. Perhaps this is also the moment you turn that spotlight on the big flag. At the very end of the piece, as students are singing "freedom!" have them slowly raise their right arms while holding their lights. Pace it to last four measures so that by measure 129 all arms are straight up in the air. Have them hold this pose until after the song. Cue lowering their arms together during the applause.
To accomplish the use of soloists, speakers, and/or chorus, you will want to plan your blocking for this song carefully. Decide who is involved with what section of the song, and figure out ahead of time how they will arrive at their performance location and how they will leave it (if they do). Movement opportunities are indicated on the piano/vocal score for your convenience. It could be that you design it so that no one ever moves, which is fine. But if you are using a different speaker for each state, you may need to have them enter and exit. Be sure to give them plenty of time and obstruction-free access. Obviously, you will want them at or near the front and center of the performance area. Perhaps you could line them up in order so that you are simply cuing one after another for each section. Forget using microphones if you can help it. They will just slow things down.
If you used a color guard for the first tune of the revue, you can bring them back out again during the section at measure 67. Even if you haven't used them before, at least have some students carrying American flags enter processionally during this segment to prepare for the ending. Position them out of the way of the final singing and action when they are done. Let them march to the beat, or not.