I've been preparing to teach syncopa to my fifth graders soon, so I've been thinking a lot about the Canoe Song. (You know the one... "My paddle's keen and bright." often sung by Girl Scouts?) It's recently been brought up in the music teaching community as a song that's inauthentic and appropriates indigenous culture. Because of that, I'm no longer choosing to teach it. I'm continuing to research music that better represents Native American voices in my classroom. In the mean time, I needed another song to fill the pedagogical gaps that the Canoe Song left behind.
The specific concepts that I was looking for were syncopa and minor tonality. I wanted a song that would be short and simple, easy to learn but engaging enough that students would want to sing it over and over again. I decided to flex my creative muscle and write one of my own.
The song is called, "Let There Be Peace" and uses a driving syncopated rhythm. I wrote it in E minor, an easily accessible key to accompany on ukulele and it sits well for children's voices. The best thing about it, though, is how easy it is to ad lib additional verses. The first two verses establish the form (Verse one is "Let there be peace on Earth" and verse two is "I am the peace on Earth.) and then you and your students can brainstorm additional verses ad nauseam. This makes it a great song to prepare a concept in a Kodály inspired classroom, because you can change the lyrics and sing it over and over again.
Listen to the song here:
And here's a copy of the notation:
I hope this song brings you and your students peace during these crazy times. If you use it in your classroom I'd love to hear how it goes!