Hello! I hope everyone is having a great first few weeks back to school. I am in the middle of my first full week now and so far so good! I will have a post soon about my first month procedures but today we are finishing up The Kodaly in the Choral Classroom series! Part 4 is all about choosing and preparing music before you even step foot in front of your choir. After today you will have all the tips and tricks I learned from Dr. Laszlo Norbert Nemes from the Kodaly Institute in Kecskemet, Hungary.
We have already talked about the Auditions and First Rehearsal, Warm-Ups, and the Rehearsal Itself-(click the titles to be taken to that post) but how do you know WHAT to sing??? Dr. Nemes had a lot of great tips for picking and preparing music.
First, when thinking about what materials to program be sure include music that meets your artistic goals for your ensemble, is attainable- yet some still with a challenge- with your groups musical ability, and that you are thinking about the vocal and technical readiness of your chorus. You also want to teach music that YOU like. If you don't like a piece, that attitude will rub off on your chorus- where as if you LOVE a piece, students will pick up on that and end up loving the piece as well. :)
More specifically, here are 6 things to remember when choosing music.
1. A worthwhile piece will always help chorus members grow musically and vocally
2. The music should be age appropriate in subject and meaning (both emotional and cultural)
3. The music should contain many pedagogical opportunities for you as a teacher to teach students how to read and understand music!
4. The style of each piece should be taken into consideration so that a concert is engaging for both singers and audience. Have a variety of time periods, tempos, cultures, composers and more all represented!
5. Utilize both accompanied and unaccompanied pieces
6. All choirs should move gradually from unison to part singing. Even if a choir is advanced, unison can be a great tool to practice many things so have both on your program (even it is only a section of unison for a more advanced group).
Once you have your music literature picked out it is time to start prepping for the rehearsal. A chorus director should plan each and every rehearsal but also needs to remember to be FLEXIBLE as things do not always go as planned or a wonderful teaching moment may appear that you don't want to pass up. The best time to plan the next rehearsal is IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the one you just finished.
When planning a rehearsal, a director or conductor should not only be planning which songs need to be worked on next, but which specific sections of each song need to be taught or practiced, which warm-ups relate to those sections, AND logical transitions between songs. To be successful in planning it is best if a director really knows the music inside and out by carefully taking time to study the score well before the first rehearsal.
When studying a score for the first time there are 3 ways a director should go through the song.
1. Line by line or horizontally is first- work your way through each top starting with the sopranos and ending with the lowest section. Find tricky parts within each vocal line, read through the text, and find musical symbols like crescendos, accents, etc. so that you can be fully prepared when teaching a line to the chorus.
2. Next, move through the piece vertically by playing each part with each other part. For a 3-part piece you might play the soprano and alto together, then play the soprano and baritone, then alto and baritone, and finally all 3 at once. Listen for the harmonic progression and figure out which parts should sing out and which need to back off based on text, chord structure, or even just written in cues from the composer.
3. Finally you want to move through the music zig-zag. Look for cues, voice leading, etc. and find which part is the most important during each section of the song. Find entrances and cut offs and if another voice part may be able to help with a tricky interval or entrance.
By the time you are done with score study- you should be able to sing every part of the piece and even jump back and forth between parts with out thinking. Only then should you present the music to your chorus :)
I hope you enjoyed reading this series! Be sure to check out the other posts (links are back at the top) so you don't miss ANY of the wonderful information that Dr. Nemes shared. I am so excited to really start chorus this year and put all these tips and ideas to good use! My students will be singing, reading, moving and having fun!