by David & Anne Ellsworth
Have you ever heard the expression, "It's not what you have, but who you are and how you choose"? This is the concept we wish to introduce in the tune, "If."
We heard that the idea for this song came to David and Anne after seeing the movie version of the story written by Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia. Without introducing any spoilers, the underlying concept they came out of the theater discussing was the main character's ability to choose. It is so well written, that you also realize that power is given to us all. We can choose right over wrong, good over evil, and choose to make our personal challenges times worth overcoming and celebrating.
Anne told us that David tearfully announced to her in the car on the way home, "We've got to try and teach this truth to the kids who sing our songs." And "If" became their mission.
Using a simple fairy-tale story line, that kings and queens are good and triumph over evil, the tune starts by defining those roles to young singers. And of course, as they sing on, the children learn that they can choose to follow those good and wholesome examples of service and caring. Money, social standing, or possessions don't determine any of that. But who they are, does.
Simple quarter and half note rhythms make up the sweet melody. The tune on the track version is played by a recorder, backed up by strumming acoustic guitar, harp, and an alternating pizzicato/arco string orchestra.
This song lends itself well to simple props, such as crowns for the boys and robes for the girls. Consider using actions the kids could perform to reflect the choices of their king/queen. For example, on the words "I'll be good," have the boys put their crowns on their heads. Then when they sing, "Help the folks..." have them shake their neighbors' hands or hold hands with the person next to them and gently swing arms.
The same concept for the girls applies as your class sings verses 2 and 4. Though we have not indicated it on the music, you may choose to have all children sing all verses or just boys sing 1 and 3, and just girls sing 2 and 4. All children should sing the chorus each time it comes around, and again, invite actions to emphasize lyrics. For example, "It could be" - hands with palms up, shrugging shoulders; "you and me" - pointing to the audience then to themselves; and finally, "loving, free" - the kids could hug themselves or make a wide arm gesture to indicate 'the world.' Have fun choosing with your classes!
Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.