Making a School Musical
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,203
    (Cross-posted at the Chant Cafe)

    I've spent the past year working at a wonderful independent Catholic K-12 school in southern California. I thought I would write about some of my experiences there, for those who are hoping to build a musical culture in a similar situation.

    The students have a history of singing the simplest Gregorian Mass ordinary, and I decided to leave that alone for the time being while we focused on some other elements of sacred music.

    I teach K-8 music once a week per class. In K-5 we've focused on repertoire in preparation for Mass.

    --The 4 seasonal Marian antiphons, sung at the end of Communion time.
    --Chant hymns including the Adoro Te, Ave Verum Corpus, Attende Domine, Veni Creator Spiritus, and Rorate Caeli
    --Communion proper chants, seasonal responsorial Psalms
    --A very limited repertoire of English hymns, with outstanding text and music. Tunes include Duke Street, Jesu dulcis memoria, Salzburg, Hyfrydol, Old Hundredth, Passion Chorale, and Land of Rest.

    The students have also learned some theory, using ideas from the Ward Method.

    The middle schoolers have learned all of the above, plus some modern theory. They can identify all of the notes using both chant and modern notation. The eighth graders can sight sing chant notation.

    For the usual Christmas pageant we used excellent Christmas carols, including Resonet in laudibus, the Carol of the Bells, and In dulci iubilo.

    The high school choir has focused on SATB harmony. In addition to harmonizing the non-chant hymn tunes, which is itself a musical education because of the musicality of the arrangements (several by Bach), we've learned several classic motets: Sicut Cervus, If Ye Love Me, Mozart's Ave Verum, and O Sacrum Convivium.

    Although we've had some good luck, and I've had some practice at this sort of thing, the main strength of our program has simply been the vision that school music can and should aim at a high level of quality.

    I'd certainly be happy to advise anyone who is interested in implementing a similar program. It's not as hard as you might think--and it is definitely worth trying!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,203
    I forgot to mention the best part. We've been doing most of our singing, rehearsals included, a capella. So from the very beginning, the students have not been supported by chordation. It's the harder way to do things at the beginning, but I think it will bear fruit.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    We've had extraordinary success the last decade with an 8th grade bell choir that prepares all sorts of pieces for Mass and performances. We also do musicals once a year, but we take an eclectic approach towards content and style.
    May the 4th be with you, or "What we did yesterday."
  • Stacy
    Posts: 4
    Wow, that is great!
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • Kathy, I would LOVE to implement something like that in my new job (starting at a k-8 school in August). would you be able to email me? andrew.earnest.1 at gmail . com

    Of course the at should be @ and no spaces. I don't want the spam bots coming after my one good personal email address.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,203
    Happy to help, email on the way.