Words that sound the way we feel;TES Campaign;Music for the Millennium;Anthem for the Millennium

5th March 1999 at 00:00
How did Don Black create the lyrics for the anthem? Gerald Haigh looks at how to get children thinking about the language of song

The lyric is deceptively simple, but as you would expect from someone as experienced as Don Black, there's more in it than meets the eye. Try discussing it with your pupils, looking at these general points.

* It works at more than one level. Someone is clearly talking to someone else, but who are they? Ask the children. They may think, for example, that it's one of these: Two children from different cultures and backgrounds - one in the UK, one in Africa; Two young people exploring their feelings for each other; A human being and a visitor from a far-off galaxy; Two people from different times in history.

* Look at the detail of the language: Hear my voice and I will hear your heart

Can you hear someone's heart, in this sense? How?

* What about the contrasts that Don has chosen - "Diff'rent as a star is to a tree" "Diff'rent as the moon is to the sea" Are they random choices, or is there more to it than that? A star and a tree are both symbolic of steadfastness and long life - and you can think of a tree silhouetted in the darkness, with a star above. The moon and the sea are symbols of romance, eternity and beauty - and you can visualise the moon's track on the sea. (Why the apostrophe in 'diff'rent'? It's just to make sure you realise it's to be sung with two syllables rather than three) * Look at the rhyming scheme. Don rhymes the end of the third line of the first verse "know you" not with the end, but with the middle of the fourth line, "show you". Song lyricists are possibly more aware of this little trick than anyone, because it works well with music - "We'll have Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island too..."

* Do you like the little trick in the second line of the middle section?: If we're friends there'll be no forces to force us apart

The music emphasises it by giving very similar notes to "forces" and "force us". Again, it's a very typical song lyricist's device.

* This lyric was written to fit music that was already there. Writers of classical songs rarely do this - they are usually inspired by poetry - but popular song lyricists often work this way. It's surprisingly difficult.

It's a fair assumption that Don Black's facility at doing this, often deployed at short notice, is one of the secrets of his success.

Try writing your own words to this, or some other favourite song.

But don't get hung up on analysis. Discuss it as long as interest holds. But most of all, enjoy your song.

None of the activities calls for specialised musical knowledge - the song will soon be available on a free CD (see coupon on page 2), so you can use the recording to fill in any gaps in your ability to read the printed score, or to support your finished performance.

You can also find the score and the lyrics at The TES website. And watch out for a recording to appear there soon.


The full orchestral score is also available - see coupon, page 2.

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