Teaching Children Chant : Words With Wings v. Ward Method
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,045
    I am thinking of starting a kids schola at the church where I am DM. I have directed adults, but am looking for something a little more basic and structured for the kids, who will be learning from the ground up. I have little knowledge, alas, of either Words with Wings or the Ward Method, and am looking for advice on the relative merits of both lessons.

  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    My wife is a Ward-certified instructor, and while I was initially skeptical, it has done amazing things at her school. You have to be in it for the long haul; it requires a great deal of preparation and patience. However, please do not attempt to teach Ward unless you have completed the appropriate training. You cannot just figure it out by reading through the instructional materials (which apparently are sometimes incomplete or even out of order).

    You also probably don't want to do Ward by itself; it may be a good idea to couple it with other approaches that are less cerebral.

    I don't know anything about Words With Wings, so I can't speak to that.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    I have a group of grade school kids for 20 minutes once a week; there's no way I'd attempt to learn Ward for that. We started with WWW's in September this year, and so we've only been through the first 5 chapters, but so far it is perfect for the level of interest, commitment, and enthusiasm that the kids have.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    I agree that the Ward method requires a lot of training. Years of study, and a complete understanding of how all of the small parts add up to the whole. I don't honestly believe that people can teach it just by buying the Ward books. It needs to live and breathe. That is why it is so hard to do these days --- few have the training. And our classrooms situations aren't set up for this much music education, quite frankly.

    Words With Wings has its roots in Ward. Needless to say, it is not attempting a complete music education. But it does succeed - with nice pacing -- in teaching the children how to conceive of and sing Gregorian chant over a shorter period of time. I think it can be taught without extensive training.
  • Each level in the Ward Method takes only 5 days of study. Most teachers take the training in the season prior to when they would begin teaching.

    The main difference between the two methods is that the Ward Method is complete musical formation (including Gregorian chant and Catholic formation), while Words with Wings is an introduction to chant. Do you want your students to understand how to read music? Do you want your children to sing the intervals involved in the chant? Do you want your students to learn chironomy and the rhythm themselves? Do you want your students to compose? Do you want your students to learn both Gregorian notation as well as modern notation? If you said yes to the previous questions, Ward would be the way to go. The 5 day training is indeed intense- but doesn't the music of our church deserve it? Don't our children deserve it? Words with Wings is a step for some. Some of us are in the place to take the leap of faith.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,676
    The other side of the coin is: Do you want your students to become familiar with and amenable to chant, even though you and they have very little time and money?

    Do you want many, many children to be exposed to chant?
  • Children becoming familiar to chant is a wonderful thing. 5 days of study surely is not long, and many (full!) scholarships are available to study Ward. The teacher's materials are also included and students at schools/churches do not need to purchase any materials. Ward can be virtually free to study and implement.

    That being said, in 1924 13,000 teachers held a Ward diploma, 500,000 children were trained by these teachers, and the method was in 45 states, Canada, the Philippines, and more than 60 religious communities. (From Justine Ward and Solesmes by Combe p. 32) Surely Mrs. Ward not only wanted children exposed to chant but to have them implement it in the liturgy.

    Finally, a point I forgot to make: One of the most beneficial aspects of Ward is the teaching of proper vocal technique. The children that are trained in this method have a resonant, flute-like quality- perfect for chant.
    Thanked by 1E_A_Fulhorst
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,045
    A couple questions of my own :

    I don't have much experience in teaching children, though I have done work in Middle School/High School Musical Theatre. How often (for either course) would the children need to be at schola rehearsal for either program to be effective? We are a personal parish and we have parishioners from many miles away, and I don't want travelling to be a discouragement for parents and kids.

    I do not use 'old Solesmes' in the adult choir that I direct. Would one method or the other pose a problem for older children transitioning from the kid's schola to the adult (i.e. difficulty in forgetting about the ictus, etc.). (I have no axe to grind here, btw : I know 'old Solesmes' and have nothing against it, but I prefer Cardine's approach to chant.)
  • Salieri-
    The wonderful thing about Ward training is that all you need to begin is a good sense of pitch. All the other details are taught in the training. I'm sure your theater background is great for classroom management and positive energy!

    For rehearsals and scheduling, it is probably best to see when the group can and is willing to meet. If they are gung-ho and parents want to drive, shoot for a few times a week. If parents have other obligations and the distance is too far, do one rehearsal and you could send things home to work on. There are workbooks that are available for Ward. You could also make your own worksheets, etc. Ideally you want to meet as often as you can for proper reinforcement of vocal skills. With supportive parents at home, they can assist.

    For Ward, the basis is in the Solesmes tradition (Mocquereau). However, also included is traditional folk music, classical music, etc. The students are grounded in a strong musical formation and are very pliable with regards to music. (ie- Our choir performed a musical theater selection recently and they did great.) Intervals, rhythmic counting (ictus, etc.),and chironomy are all included in Ward training for the teachers and the students.

    God bless!
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 710
    I took Ward Book 1 training at CUA and loved it! I only wish I had been exposed to it sooner. I'm appalled (though not really surprised) that it was never mentioned in any of my music ed courses in college. In the one survey course "all" of the major methods were presented (Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze etc.) but not one mention of Ward, which in my opinion is far superior to the other more popular methods out there. But I suppose that's just my Catholic bias speaking (and it was likely the a anti-catholic bias of the university that prompted it's omission). I'm not familiar with Words with Wings, but my preliminary impression is that it is not as comprehensive as Ward.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,045
    Thanks everyone.

    I'm going to order Words with Wings, have a parousal, and see if that will fit the bill; and I will certainly look into the Ward Center at CUA and see if they offer any summer programs.
  • It is surely unfortunate that the Ward Method is taught within a collegiate structure that must make money. There must be people in Musica Sacra qualified to teach and a free school needs to be created, a Ward Method Intensive, please.

    The 5 day training is indeed intense- but doesn't the music of our church deserve it? Yes, it does, let's bring it to the people in an affordable manner so that unpaid and little-paid people can participate.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I'm trained for Ward method, but I see children only once a week in a parish school (for about 40 minutes), so it's not easy to use only Ward method. 'Words with Wings' has been a great joy with the children in my classes. It's been working very well for the children from 3rd grade through 8th grade, as well as a mixed group of homeschool children's schola that I've been directing for 5 years. Amazing thing is that both beginners and advanced chanters in the schola are learning this together very well (while the two groups have separate times for learning chants for Masses.)

    At the school, I usually spend the first half of the class on sacred music and the other half on secular music. We also talked about the different singing styles and the attitude of reverence in singing sacred music. The book starts with the emphasis on sacred texts. It was amazing to see how they catch on instantly and started to sing Psalms beautifully. I'm thinking maybe I should use some lessons from Words with Wings to adult schola too. ( I also love the title of the book.)

    This week we are learning to sing Litany of Saints in Latin, lessons 4 and 5. (had fun guessing saints' names in Latin.)

    Thanks for the wonderful book, Mr. Brouwers and Arlene for the translation.
  • @Frogman - As Earl G. has said above, the Ward Method is on par with all of the greats: Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze, among others. Hence the scholarly training. As for cost, many have not paid a cent. There are numerous (FULL) scholarships available should one ask. With the books being included for teachers, and schools and students not obligated to purchase anything, Ward can be virtually implemented free. Can't beat that! For more information, especially on scholarships, please contact Fr. Robert Skeris (skeris@cua.edu).
  • Ok, I admit that I went to the Ward site and found that I can take a week long course without certification (hardly an issue since no one's going to insist on it in today's chant climate) for $600 tuition in San Antonio, TX, which has to be less expensive than going to Washington - I did not find the cost for a week long course in Washington, but woudl be interested in knowing what it costs.

    I have always been very impressed by the Ward Method and Wings, being built upon it but two very talented people very qualified to create such a course, it can only create more teachers who will want to go on and do Ward as well.

    So these two satisfy a desperate need. I am thoroughly convinced that WINGS at the Catholic Music Educators convention which is attended by people who run and spend the money at Catholic Schools, would be very successful. It could easily be funded and used by the after-school program for children of working parents which exist in Catholic schools almost everywhere. Once funded there, it would be easy to move into the main course of music study in the school.
    Thanked by 1E_A_Fulhorst
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 955
    I wonder how many people would attend if we could arrange for this class to be taught the week before the next Colloquium in SLC---?
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,771
    While the tuition at CUA is high, scholarships are available for the course; when Angela and I took the course, one student was there on a full tuition waiver.

    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • I live in a country parish where there's not a whole lot of interest in the children's choir, so I can only have rehearsal once a week for one hour, and have to use the majority of that time for learning the actual music that we're going to be singing at Mass. Our parish still has quite a ways to go before chant won't be a complete turn-off to people, so I have to introduce it slowly and carefully in the children's choir. So for me, the Words with Wings was my choice and it is working out great. We're about to start lesson 4 and their interest in chant, as well as ability to sing it, is already increasing. I had to make up an "extra" lesson to insert between chapters 2 and 3 since the kids in my choir didn't really know hardly anything about solfege, but it seemed to work pretty well and they were able to do the little sight-reading exercises in chapter 3. I don't really know much about the Ward method, but in my brief perusal of the book one time, I immediately realized it was far too much to try to do with my children's choir in the amount of time that's available to us. If you only have weekly rehearsals and/or limited teaching time, Words with Wings is the way to go, IMO.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • Carl D, I'd be most interested in that!
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    A note about the Ward classes and Ward training at CUA. The five days of training mentioned above is only for teaching Book 1. There are two other classes one needs to take (three, if you count the Gregorian Chant Practicum) to be fully trained to teach everything (within the Ward system) that Pipesnposaune mention above. Ward I is offered every year. Ward II is seldom offered. To the best of my knowledge, Ward III has only been offered one time in the past ten years. The chant practicum is offered every year.
  • The Ward certification, much like Orff and Kodaly, is sequential. Observation of the teachers does occur, and advanced levels are offered when needed. This past summer Ward II at CUA was offered and was quite successful. The Gregorian Chant Practicum was obviously a huge success as well. The most amazing part is that Ward I had the most participants that anyone can remember. The rooms had to be changed and it still was packed. What a blessing! I can imagine two classes of Ward I if that rate keeps up. God bless all of you teaching chant to our children.
  • Obviously there is more Ward US interest in preserving the program than making it available to the unwashed public. Thank you for Wings!