Patriotic Harmony

By: Deborah Sullivan, Music Teacher at Graham & Parks

Tom-singing.jpgI teach chorus in Grades 5-8 at Graham and Parks. In February, I had a memorable experience with the fifth graders. They had been invited to sing a few patriotic songs at a Naturalization Ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston. I knew right away that I wanted them to perform a great arrangement I have of “This Land is Your Land.”

There are two solos in the arrangement and at the first rehearsal with all the fifth graders, I asked if anyone would be interested singing solo. A number of hands shot up. “Come see me at recess today then.” I listened to those who showed up and narrowed it down to about six. I have a small fifth grade chorus (most students take instruments in fifth grade) and, surprisingly, none of them had volunteered for solos. However I told them that they would be helping me choose the soloists.

At our next rehearsal I invited the six finalists to come in to sing for us. Our first choice was Harry because he was able to easily find the difficult starting note for the second solo. We went back and forth about who should do the first solo and couldn’t agree. “Why doesn’t the whole chorus sing it?” someone suggested. “Okay, let’s try that.” I said, and they all began singing. My ear was suddenly drawn to the voice of a new student who had recently joined one of the SEI classes and was now in chorus. I knew very little about him since he had only been to two rehearsals. When the group finished I said to him: “Do you want to try the solo?” Without batting an eyelash, he said “OK” and stood in front of the group.

He sang with complete confidence and his voice was beautiful! The other students’ eyes grew wide and they all began pointing at him and saying: “him, him!” And that’s how Tom, who had so recently come to Cambridge from China, became the soloist at a Naturalization Ceremony for new citizens of the United States! Everyone was impressed with the whole group’s performance, but when the boys sang their solos I could see that the entire crowd was thrilled. And so was I!

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