Sunday, October 31, 2021


I’m picturing a time (hopefully in the further rather than nearer future) when some loved ones are gathering around my deathbed, searching for the perfect exit music. Since I’m no Bach, they won’t be singing an excerpt from the Mass in B Minor nor reciting my poetry as if I were Yeats or playing me a recording of my finest jazz piano solo. Instead, they might sing:


“You should know it’s the time of year…” — and I’ll rise up on my bed, clap my hands three times and expire with a smile on my face. 


For alongside my composed Earth Day Rap and Intery Mintery, my versions of Criss-Cross Applesauce or One Mud Pie or Old King Glory, this song is one of the signature pieces in my repertoire. There is something at once powerful and satisfying and hilarious about knowing that I could sing that opening line to any alum from school between 15 and 55 years old and without a moment’s hesitation, without pausing to think about it, they would clap their hands three times. Indeed, the power of call and response songs is the comfort and security and sense of connection and belonging that occurs when one knows precisely how to answer the call with the proper response. 


This is a Halloween song that I found early on in my teaching career in a California music textbook. It was written by Lynne Ohlsen (this by memory— I’ll check next time I visit the school) and the text is as follows: 


You should know it's the time of year (clap-clap-clap)
When the witches and ghosts appear 
They come at night when there's no more light
Halloween is almost here. 

If you look very carefully 
There's a goblin behind that tree 
But I must say, don't you run away
'Cuz it might be me. 


Music teachers, take note. It’s a great song for exploring contrast. Sing the first two lines of each stanza staccato, the next two legato, hold out “away” in a dramatic fermata, then decrescendo down to pp on the last line, followed by the explosive “BOO!!!” It takes some practice to sing artfully. 


Someday in a future blog, I’ll invoke that first line again. Perhaps you’ll be sitting in a Starbucks or sneaking a read in a boring office meeting and you’ll spontaneously erupt into the “Clap-clap-clap!” And then have to explain to the people around you what happened.


Well, heck, why not teach them the song?! Happy Halloween!


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