Friday, October 11, 2013

Last Hungary Post- James Cuskelly Tips for Choir

Before I get into my post about Tips from James Cuskelly Workshop and 2 musicianship classes I took from him during my  3 weeks in Kecskemet, Hungary, I wanted to brag a little about my 5th + 6th graders.  I challenged them today to truly sight-read (on solfa, with accurate pitch and rhythm) a line of a song which was diatonic.  The 1st half of the line was the same as the example we did last week, but the 2nd half was different, and most of them got it on the first try (which I did not expect at all!) and by the end of our work, we were singing the entire verse of the song (4 lines) accurately on solfa.  I was happily stunned.  Usually we have to write in at least a few key pitches- but they didn't write in anything! WOW!  It really shows what using a Kodaly sequence in both choir and general music can do.  It also shows that when kids are truly "your own" you can push them and challenge them and they really are getting it - so new teachers, don't be discouraged!  Keep at it and one day, you too can be stunned! :)  ~ They have now successfully read the whole song and sing it beautifully on solfa with the accompaniment- we will be getting to words soon!

Now onto the tid-bits from James, an AMAZING Kodaly musicianship teacher from Australia (there will be a documentary coming about about Kodaly in Australia, focused on him soon- so stay tuned and as soon as I know it has premiered, I will let you know- I think late 2014 or 2015).  This is kind of an overview/ outline of his Keynote speech during the symposium, with a few practical examples from his musicianship class thrown in.

In his speech, James talked about the choral rehearsal and I have been trying to use his tips and wisdom a lot in my chorus classrooms this year (and it's working!) Obviously in a performance based class, a beautiful performance is the end goal- but how is that achieved? 

2 ways- Good Musicianship (both the chorus AND director)
             Folk Music and Art Traditions in Balance

Kodaly states that the "roots of music are in singing" and that singing would ensure a  more meaningful engagement with music for life.  The components of folk materials serve not only to comprehensively develop the musician, but they ALSO encourage the artistic sensitivity.

During a chorus rehearsal, to achieve good musicianship on the part of the singers, students should master the following in order:
           In tune unison singing (which actually can be VERY tricky)
           Partwork (both homaphonic and polyphonic by way of cannons and ostinatos first)                               Perfect Intervals (both harmonic and melodic).

I tend to focus on the 1st two in my 5th and 6th grade choruses, with some subconscious interval work mixed in by having students read from hand signs in 2 parts.  Kodaly has many 2 part examples that you can do with your choirs.  They also sight-read from the Kodaly 333 and add both pitched and unpitched ostinatos.

If you have a more advanced choir you can try some of these ideas from James:

Singing the tri-chords of a pentatonic scale up and down with interval names (ex. s,-l,-d-l,-s,   s,-l, major 2nd; l,-d minor 3rd; s,-d perfect 4th (then backwards))

You could also sing the scales (or scales with interval names) with different rhythm patterns like tom-ti ti-ti ta and then for an extra challenge do it in groups in cannon.  (this is HARD!)

One more idea is rhythm dictation in both 2/4 and 6/8 and speaking at the same time (this is big kid version of an idea Lucinda mentioned her workshop, check that out HERE).   Students need to dictate the rhythm and then when reading it out loud some start at the 2/4 while others start on the 6/8. Both are read simultaneously AND students have to switch back and forth keeping the macro beat the same. Below is the rhythm we dictated then read in the Musicianship class. 

Just remember that a music classroom should be both sequential and developmental.  Assist your students from moving from the simple, to the more complex and continue to choose a variety literature; some that they will be successful on quickly, and some that is more of a challenge that may take a few rehearsals to master certain sections all to reach the goal of a beautiful performance that leads to a meaningful engagement with music for life.

I will leave you with this WONDERFUL Kodaly quote about singing in a choir and a beautiful video of a choral flashmob in Budapest, Hungary that happened recently:

              Is there anything more demonstrative of social solidarity than a choir?  Many people
              unite to do something that cannot be done by a single person alone, however talented
              he or she may be; there the work of everyone is important. ~ Zoltan Kodaly

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