what to do with a nine-year old who loves chant...
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 779
    so, I have a piano student who loves chant. And he is nine years old.

    As part of his lessons, I have been having him learn a different chant every week (written in modern notation) on the piano keys.

    His mom told me that his dad got him a copy of this book on chant, which he has been devouring. It seems pretty legit, but I only got to look through it for a moment (and I hope it isn't too "new-agey-spiritually" if you know what I mean.)

    But...then what? He is homeschooled, and with very supportive Catholic parents, but keep in mind I'm only his piano teacher, so I don't really have time to do much more outside of things directly related to piano. I'm thinking I will next have him start learning chants on the piano that are written in square-note notation. He has a very good ear, and will sing along quite well with what he is playing on the piano, so of course the obvious benefit is that by learning how to read chant notation better on the piano, he will be able to sing it better. But of course that will only get him so far, and at some point he is going to have to learn the practical application within a choir, and how to make it actually beautiful, (by following whatever method of singing chant that is being used.) He is also VERY creative, definitely a budding composer (but he is only at level 2 in the piano books, so his composing skills on paper are kind of limited to that.)

    So...any other book resource ideas that could keep the attention of a creative nine-year old? Or other general teaching ideas?
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    I use a book called Everybody's Perfect Masterpieces by Bigler & Lloyd Watts published by Alfred. I jump around through the first volume and supplement with pieces from Bartok's Mikrokosmos Books I and II, until I can get them into the Piano Literature. The Bartok pieces are fun, modal, percussive and very pianistic and free the students mind from the closed-off realm of C position. I also start to teach them the concept of whole-half steps very early, so that they can learn the five-finger pattern (Starting note-W-W-H-W and back down) starting R.H. thumb/ L.H. pinky on all of the 12 major keys, so that when they start to learn key signatures they are comfortable playing in any key and understand the concept of keys and transposition, instead of being overwhelmed, discouraged and then quitting. Good luck, it sounds like you have a great student. Always stay positive and build their confidence.
  • Keep him out of Knoxville, TN where there are, I am told, many chant-haters....

    And the Bartok is a GREAT idea!
  • How about slowly teaching him how to accompany chant (that is, with modal harmonies)?

    And before I get flamed for suggesting that chant be accompanied remember that there is, after all, a tradition of accompanying chant in France, and let's face it. . . some of the best chant-based organ music comes from that country.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 779
    David Andrew-
    I totally agree...but...*I* don't even know how to accompany chant! where/how do I even begin?!
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,570
    The "Nova Organi Harmonia" provides organ accompaniment
    for the pre-Vatican-Two Kyriale and Graduale.

    click Liturgy
    click St Lalande Library of Rare Books
    click the icon
    click the full-page icon
    click ADDITIONAL TOME (Organ Accompaniments)

    There are eight volumes, but only seven have been found and scanned.
    Each PDF is 29-37 MB so right-click and save them to your hard-drive.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    The NOH is very nice, there are also a number of other accompaniments of the ST Lalande rare books site, some
    will be notated more accurately or interestingly than others.
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    get that kid to a boychoir!!!!
  • don roy - YES I agree but not just any boychoir. This is all the more reason why I was the first person here on this site to strongly suggest several month ago, that the CMAA should start having Summer Training sessions and Colloquiums for boys and girls in chant, polyphony AND how to sing technically correctly. I have always been called and considered a dreamer and visionary. Well, I believe with all my heart and soul that it is and should be of the highest priority that the CMAA should take up the banner and cause for the development, support and training of boys and girls choirs in this country in churches. It is absolutely critical that we train and raise up new generation of children NOW who can sing well, and have a love for chant and polyphony. The survival of the Church and its culture is at stake and this directly speaks to it. Yes, this is only one boy. However, where there is one, there are more. I think and reflect, what if someone had never told me about and directed me towards and into an Episcopal Cathedral men and boys choir years and years ago. I would have been the poorer for it, and so the thousands of children I have trained, and it has been EVERYTHING to me - especially leading me to my Lord and Savior!
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    you pretty well said it all Ken and quite beautifully!
    thank you.
  • Congrats on having a student who discerns great music- you must be giving him good foundations.

    The voice is a much different instrument from piano or organ, as I'm sure you know. I say get him to someone who knows how to train him in good vocal basics and acapella singing.

    Also, I don't think chant and piano mix well. Chant needs a kind of legato pliability that piano, as a percussion instrument, is not capable of modeling. Organ comes closer, but cannot replace acapella singing. Great instruments, but again, so very different from the voice.

    If he wants to sing chant, why not advise him to study with a singer- in addition to continuing piano with you, of course. Point him to a good chorister program. If you are anywhere near Sacramento, for example, Jeffrey Morse draws sublime chant from his youngsters at St. Stephen's.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 980
    What I'd do is to totally throw away the teacher/student paradigm in this particular area. What you have is two people who share a common interest in learning something new. If the two of you can look at each other as partners, then you can share equally in the joy of exploring and discovering.

    You don't have to have the answers before he does. That just limits the possibilities.

    Go with him to experience the same performances. Read the same books. Engage in wonderful discussions between yourselves and others. Make it up as you go along.

    And my personal experience - trying to layer chant on top of learning the piano probably muddies the waters. Chant is primarily for singing, so sing it. It becomes interesting and amusing to COMPARE chant with ordinary piano music, but I think your brain is going through somewhat different experiences when you're learning each.
  • What Ken wrote above deeply touched me. Teaching the children these treasures of Christian Worship will have salutary benefit in so many ways.


    (Also, I wholeheartedly agree on the recommendation of the Bartok above, and I shall add this child to my prayers. Mara, you are most blest to have such a student studying with you. God bless!