Children sessions
  • If you had 11 sessions over the course of 8 weeks with a group of appr. 30-45 children ranging in age from 10-17... how would you go about it?

    My current plan:
    Begin with Ward Method lesson--due to the number of sessions I'll have and the range in age and experience, I plan on starting with Do-Re-Mi and adding scale degrees fairly quickly. I want them to understand arsis and thesis as well as rhythmic groups of two and three fairly quickly as well.
    Follow some of the lesson plans in Words with Wings (how much to include/how far to get in the book?)
    Repertoire: Salve Regina, Missa de Angelis (starting with Kyrie and Sanctus and seeing how well they can pick it up to determine if we learn more)
    Heath Morber's "They Ate and Had Their Fill" for 2-part.

    Thoughts? Recommendations? They are already a choir but this is my first time working with them. Their parents are not native English speakers, but the children are. Also, I know that they've already begun rehearsing Christmas music at their regular rehearsals...I don't know how challenging it is, but that seems like a long time to prepare...
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,299
    Good plan.

    I've used the Parish Book of Chant in similar situations with good effect.

    My advice is to sing early and often. Mastery of a melismatic Kyrie and the Salve gives them some basis for theory.

    And pray. I start with a longish prayer (intentions, silence, OF, HM, GP), and end with Marian antiphon.

    Ward depends on quick, short lessons that build confidence and have a cumulative effect. Your time is short, so I would consider what the most important lessons are, and make them memorable
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,911
    Being a professional music teacher, I would start with Kodaly, but that's because it's what I prefer to use. Early emphasis would be on learning the major scale from DO-DO using Curwen signs as well. I would also be emphasizing proper breathing and phonation to ensure good tone quality and efficient use of breath.

    The actual plan would depend greatly upon for what we are preparing. If we're preparing to sing for Mass, the repertoire would be something like this:


    Graduale Simplex for Proper of the Mass

    Gregorian Ordinary, perhaps Missa XI

    All of the sung dialogues with priest

    Polyphony would consist of S,A parts of hymns either in English or Latin. I have a copy of the St. Gregory Hymnal, so I would use repertoire from that. Having a version of Salve Regina as you mentioned is a good idea.


    Graduale Romanum preferably for Proper of the Mass, however the Rossini Propers work as well if the GR chants are too difficult. I would, however, try to teach the children at least one of the chants from the GR, and perhaps use the Rossini for the rest if I had to do so.

    Gregorian Ordinary, perhaps Missa XI

    All of the sung dialogues with priest

    Polyphony would consist of S,A parts of hymns in Latin. Again, I'd likely use the St. Gregory Hymnal for this.

    Each of the 11 sessions would begin with solfeggio warm ups, followed possibly by range expanding exercises. You'd have to be careful with the younger students when doing range expansion, as they may be in various stages of vocal development and might not all have the same capacity for expanding at the time. Your 10-11 year old students might not have the capacity for a full child's range yet, but should be able to sing up to F5, and down to A3. At 12 years old, they should have the capacity for the full child's range of G3-G5, depending on the level of prior training and experience they've had. Your adolescent children will have voices in various stages of change, and that will affect their range capabilities significantly, especially the boys. Just work with what you have and expand gently.

    Then, I would follow by working on chant and sung Mass responses, and then the polyphony and/or hymns. I would set aside some time each session to work on a little bit of everything. The last two sessions, however, I would plan to run everything in order, and I would sing the priest's parts in rehearsal when applicable.

    When dividing up the parts, make sure that the children singing the alto part can match pitch and sing their part independently. How I have tested this before is I will work with the students on the melody for a while, and then one day before I've begun rehearsal, I will warm the students up, and then give them a pitch and tell them to sing the rest of the part. If they can do that successfully, then they're ready to take on an inner part. I've had situations where I haven't had anyone singing the alto part, and that's totally ok! Singing an inner part is an abstract concept and students don't really reach the psychological stage where they can fully grasp abstract reasoning until 5th or 6th grade. Your older students should be capable of singing inner parts, and some of the boys may be able to sing tenor or even bass parts.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,273
    Here is an exercise that keeps it fun and has an air of mystery to it while teaching them the DO to DO scale.

    Get eight-8 1/2 x 11 pieces of card stock. With a magic marker write each solfege name on each card (landscape orientation.) Also write the interval name in the bottom right corner. (e.g. MI - M3)

    Have the children volunteer to be one of the notes in the scale and hand them that card.

    Line the eight children up in the order of the scale facing the rest of the children in the choir. it is important to line them up in the order low to high the same as a keyboard from left to right.

    Have everybody sing the reference note of DO while you hold your hand over The head of the child holding the DO card.

    Standing behind the row of children holding the cards, hold your hand above each child's head and have everyone sing the notes with you slowly progressing up the scale and then down again slowly. Do this a number of times speeding up just a little bit each time.

    I stick to whole and a half steps in the beginning-first couple of days, and then I progress on to intervals of the major third from DO, and the perfect fifth from DO, and the octave for the next two days.

    After a couple of those lessons, so at about lesson five, I introduce the remaining intervals, M2, P4, M6, and M7.

    I even have them sing the interval name of each interval alternating with the solfege names...

    e.g. per (DO) fect (DO) fifth (SO)

    per-fect fifth
    DO DO SO
    per-fect fifth
    DO DO SO I raise my hand over the head of each child representing that note name.

    Children are enamored with this game. They can't get enough of it and get very excited. They would go on for hours if they could.

    Once they have this down then comes the real fun. I play simple tunes over their heads and as they are singing the syllables they realize what they are singing.

    DO... SO... FA MI RE DO*... SO...

    I am "playing the children" like a keyboard if you get my drift.

    DO FA FA FA... DO SO MI FA...

    The whole world of solfege and intervals becomes an instant reality to them in an aura of wonder and discovery.

    You are all free to use it. I call it the Koerber Kard Method.

    Attached is the set of cards for printing.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,273
    Of course, this can go on and on. You can have the children rearrange themselves into the minor scale by putting the three top children at the bottom of the line. However, you will need to adjust the interval names appropriately.
  • Thank you all! We are not preparing for a Mass. Just to generally become more acquainted with chant and sacred music...and sight reading.

    Part of my trouble is figuring out how quickly to introduce the whole scale.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,299
    Introduce the whole scale on day one.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • I wouldn't start with Missa De Angelis -- not because it's wicked or any such thing, but because you must assume that after you begin teaching them, your time with them could end at any minute. Mass IX and Mass IV and Mass XI also have melismas, as does Mass XVII. The advantage to singing these other Masses (independent of that just mentioned) is that instead of thinking of chant as a "special event" thing, you'll teach them about the Apostles (Mass IV), Our Lady (Mass IX), Advent, Lent and the season after Pentecost (Mass XVII and XI, respectively).
  • I second Kathy's idea of introducing the entire scale on day 1. Also, please, for the love of St. Cecilia, don't teach them (even inadvertently) the mythological importance of the name of the syllables! Intervals matter more than names of syllables.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • I like the idea of introducing other Masses. I picked Missa de Angelis because most of them have heard it before and it is used with some regularity at our Cathedral and a few other big parishes. Particularly when the Bishop visits. I'll have to consider changing to a different setting. However, at least some of them who attend the Cathedral parish school have learned a different Mass (I can't recall which one right now).