Looking for better ways to teach a new chant for the beginners
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I have a beginning schola (actually two), and I use CDs a lot to have my chanters to listen when they start to learn a new chant. But when there's no CD available (or want to learn a chant without CD help), I usually sing the whole chant first and teach them phrase by phrase by rote (since we are barely reading neums yet.) Imitating the director phrase by phrase seems a bit childish (and also tireing ), and I don't want to play the melody on the piano either, (or any instruments) for chants. Does anyone have a better idea on how to teach a new chant to a beginning chant group? Any ideas, I 'd appreciate them.

    (absolutely no modern notation either. Any way, most of them don't read music.)
  • Of course people can learn chant without being able to read music, otherwise most congregations wouldn't be able to sing it. I do think though that an ensemble dedicated to learning chant should have the ability to sight-read as a goal. I've found the sight-singing exercises in Appendix III of Gregorian Chant Practicum (derived from J. Ward's two fourth year books by T. Marier) to be very helpful. It really doesn't take a long time for singers to gain an elementary command of the four-line notation and the modes. Furthermore, it will be a joy for you to share in their sense of accomplishment.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
  • WGS
    Posts: 299
    If you're going to work on the Introit, start with the psalm verse and doxology. Getting a feel for the sound of the mode will make the tune of the antiphon seem more natural.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Numbers: do(1), ra(2), mi(3) etc. Develop exercises: 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1 or 2-3-4-3-4-2-3 advance in difficulty. Select an easy chant and have a choir 'number' the neums then sing. Easy and it works.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    P.S. It's important for the singers to learn to read chant notation & the above systems helps then do this.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I agree learning solfege,and we spend 5 to 10 minutes in sight reading in every rehearsal from Ward book. In the mean time, I guess I have to be a bit more patient.
  • Imitating the director phrase by phrase seems a bit childish (and also tiring )

    Until Blessed Notker Balbulus came along that was the only way chant was preserved...(Fahrenheit 451, anyone?) and IS tiring, but worth your time since you can impart so much as far as musicianship that does not appear on the printed page. You are definitely on the right path, just resole your sandals periodically....
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    As much as I support literacy and especially chant notation, there is nothing wrong with using demonstration as a tool. If it get tedious, try switching it up by singing rhythmic groupings (1-2, 1-2-3, etc.). Or try starting at the end, and working backward phrase by phrase (the "House that Jack built" technique), which can make it a little more fun. You could even associate a gesture with each phrase to help with memorization.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    In the long run, your group will do a better job if they are reading. The more you teach and do with solfege, rhythm, etc., the better off you'll be. I've seen immense progress in our group just in the past two or three years - since concentrated efforts have been made to make each and every member chant literate. Doesn't happen over night, but is necessary, or you'll be back at square one with each new chant you want to introduce.
  • As one relatively new to the chant, I agree that learning solfege is invaluable.

    Another suggestion, something I found very helpful, would be for your two schola members to purchase small voice recorders (they can get one for about $50 to $75 at Radio Shack). They can record you singing through the chant. The voice recorder will then enable them to work through the chant phrase by phrase as well as having the rhythm of the whole chant. It demands some commitment from them, but will enable you to use rehearsal time for catching mistakes, working on nuances, fine-tuning, etc.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    I do practice recordings for everything our schola does, and I post them on our website. Some of the members find them to be invaluable, especially if they have to miss a practice.

    I now do this using a Zoom H2 digital recorder, but I used to just pipe it into my PC and record it using Audacity (free). So it's not necessarily a big investment. I've tried various forms of using an organ under the sung notes (just the melody, no harmony) because it helps me to stay on pitch.

    It's a good investment, IMHO.
  • While it's tedious singing back and forth with your group, it does help them sing more musically. Especially beginners who tend to thud along with their heads plunged into the music. Remember, they're struggling with Latin as well as with an unfamiliar style of music. Take a short phrase and run it several times, so that they don't have to look at anything except you.

    I'm all for solfege, but I lack Arlene's strength of character. We work on reading and our vocal warm-ups are drawn from the music that's being worked on. Fortunately, most basic chant is formulaic and singers will begin to connect the formulae with the neums. And find themselves reading in spite of everything.

    Jan - when you use numbers, is your (1) the first note/tonic/final/whatever of the particular mode or the "do" indicated by the clef?

    And yes, practice tracks are very useful. (Of course, we have to hope the singers use them.)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks again for many good ideas. It's so good to hear from many experienced directors, and know that we are hopeful. Yeah, I should also emphasize them to look at me. (thanks, Mary Jane)
    One thing worked at the last practice: My schola was singing the cadence so stiff, so I said them to think the last note being like incense going up. It worked, and it was beautiful. It reminds us again that chants are truly our beautiful prayers, and our singing is like incense going up to God.