Last spring the full 4th grade of the Brooklyn Children’s School presented “The Power of Progress 1840 – 1920”, a multi-media, multi-disciplinary event where different groups of children created presentations and performances on such topics as Suffragettes, Newsies, Tenement Buildings, The Great Migration, Immigrant Pastimes and Diets.
The dance teacher Sandy Stratton-Gonzales and I mentored the 4th grade Musical Players who created a mini-musical called “The Immigrants”. Their performance began with the singing of the theme song “Power of Progress”.
Power of Progress
The 4th grade musical players, a group of 13 boys and girls, composed the music for “Power of Progress” and wrote the lyrics for the chorus and part of one verse in a group effort. The rest of the words for the verses were written one couplet at a time by the students in each section of the Power of Progress program (fondly referred to as POP). So the Migration group wrote “Migrants fled the south to look for better jobs and freedom” and the Pastimes group wrote “Children played in empty lots and played on open roof tops”, and so on. (The complete lyrics for “Power of Progress” are reprinted at the bottom of this article.)
The setting for the play “The Immigrants” is a schoolroom of children recently immigrated to America around the turn of the century. Each child tells a short tale of their journey, informed by research the musical players did in books, the internet, or by interviewing family members with immigrant stories.
Then the children sing a hymn, based on the famous poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, which is engraved on a plaque mounted on the Statue of Liberty.
Give Me Your Tired 1
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these the homeless tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door