Family Reunion

by Mike Wilson

Here's a foot stompin', hand clappin' challenge for your older students. Set in an "old timey" music style, you'll hear some fancy pickin' guitars, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, dobro, bass, and percussion. From the Depression era, "old timey" music finds its somewhat hillbilly character in its Appalachian roots and was notably re-popularized in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? The movie soundtrack offers many fine samples of the musical genre if you're inclined to take the discussion a little deeper. (It could segue into a history lesson without much effort.) For some real humor, you may want to have students mimic the movie's main characters, the "Soggy Bottom Boys" with costumes and "chicken dancing" choreography.

In keeping with the style, our singers used a bit of a twang for this song, which you will readily hear when listening to the CD. They also added a few vocal scoops here and there as it felt natural. These nuances are optional, but add to the fun of the tune. Our singers enjoyed this immensely.

While it definitely looks like it is a more challenging piece (lots of sixteenth notes and syncopations), listening to the recording should help quite a bit with the analysis. In fact, we would go so far as to say that it's actually pretty easy to sing along with once you've heard it a couple of times.

The optional second and third vocal parts do add a lot to the tune, and will make it particularly enjoyable for older students. We have separated these parts (as well as part 1) and put them on our web site as rehearsal tracks. (See details following.) However, the tune could work in unison. Interestingly, sometimes part 2 feels more like the melody than part 1. (Example: measures 13 - 15.) If you wish to have unison singers jump from part 1 to part 2 in places like these, go right ahead. Do whatever works.

The stomp and clap instrumental breaks offer the perfect opportunity for your hams to strut their stuff. And again, while the notation looks a bit daunting, it really isn't that difficult. For example, at measure 35, look at the stomps and claps that are written above the vocal staff. The slashes are just stomps on the beat - four to a bar. The x noteheads (upstems) are the claps, which you can easily pick out on the recording if the notation is too hard for your readers. And of course, these are optional anyway. But they sure are fun to do.

Online extras - The free, downloadable tracks mentioned can be found under the "Graphics and Extras" for Volume 17, No. 5 at

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.