The "Aha" Series: When the Cannons Go Off in Music

This week, we asked Meri-Lee Mafera, our Lower and Upper Elementary music specialist, to share some of her favorite stories that illustrate those moments of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks for a student and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.


Meri-Lee’s Cannon Story

It constantly amazes and delights me when I see the way music touches the hearts of the wonderful students here at Inly. This continues to be a source of daily “aha!” moments for me, and I am reminded how very blessed I am to be a part of a community where the arts are so much a part of each day.

In the past few weeks we have been learning national anthems from various countries around the world. During a recent UE music class, while learning “La Marseillaise,” the current national anthem of France, I noticed that one 4th grade boy had a puzzled look on his face. I made a choice not to interrupt the involved thought process that was obviously taking place and continued the class. We sang the anthem several times, chuckling at our attempts to pronounce the French lyrics. The class discussed the style of music, the English translation of the lyrics, and how it came to become the official national anthem.

As the lesson was drawing to a close I was about to share a fun fact with the class. All of a sudden, this young man’s face lit up, and he raised his hand as he began to wiggle all over. “Meri-Lee, Meri-Lee!” he exclaimed. “What?” I politely asked, knowing that this was his moment. “You know how you tell us to really LISTEN to the music?” More delight appeared on his face. “Well, I did, and I finally figured it out!”

He proceeded to share with the class the exact fact I had been about to teach. He told us about hearing part of the song “at the Fourth of July concert in Boston…when the cannons go off!” He had indeed recognized that Tchaikovsky used a piece of “La Marseillaise” in his 1812 Overture, and that yes, it is played every year on the Fourth of July by the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra when the cannons go off. AHA!

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 1, 2009.]

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