I do have a snowy song for you this week - a setting of Robert Frost's beautiful poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, but first a little boast...
I have won a scholarship with KMEIA . Australia's Kodaly association. This will enable me to devote some time and focus to smartening up and publishing the musicianship training materials I have created for myself in my work with adult community choirs, for other directors to use with their adult choirs. woot!
I'm so proud of my trophy. It's all rainbows and dreams.
The first step in this is to have a good sit and have a good think. So far I've thought that along with exercises for improving sightsinging, I'd like to write and share choral repertoire that is 'real' music but designed to be sightread rather than taught by rote. This repertoire will need to introduce elements in the same sequence that they are introduced in the sightreading exercises. (One of the great things about the Kodaly method is that there is a very clear and very successful sequence for the order of teaching musical elements.)
I've written my first song for this focus. I am assuming choristers have learnt the elements of do, re and mi, crotchets, quavers and minims, and 3/4 time.
Now this is where you come in. Kodaly was absolutely adamant that excellent pedagogical music comes from only two sources. Folk music and GREAT art music. His argument (and it's a good one) was that folk songs embody the 'wisdom of the people'. For folk songs to stay alive in an aural tradition, they must be sticky - they must stick in people's heads and hearts. And they must be singable - they must be able to flow out of non trained singers mouths. Any songs that don't meet these criteria aren't remembered, aren't sung and aren't passed on. He also wrote that it takes great composers to find their way to the naturalness of folk songs - that mediocre composers write with stilted and artificial feel.
This is weighing on my mind. If I'm to write songs to add to the body of work used for Kodaly pedagogy the songs have to be singable, they have to be sticky, they have to feel natural. I can only test this myself so much - my number one test is to sing my songs while I'm having a bath. Away from the piano. away from the sheet music. I sing and try to be sneaky and notice if I am struggling to remember any particular notes, or if it all flows. But I'm not a good tester - I know too much about my own process!!! hahaha
I could really do with some folks who would try these songs with their adult community choirs, and let me know if they flow out of people's mouths. And if not, where do people stumble? Because that's where I need to fix something.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Here's the first one. I've used Robert Frost's text, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, because his meter is so masterful and the simple words are so evocative and lovely.
There are two rather obvious points here - firstly because it's for SATB I have used more than just do, re and mi. Otherwise, it would end up being quite a weird work and not at all natural feeling. hahaha.
Secondly I'm asking you to test this without the benefit of the sightreading teaching exercises that would help prepare choristers for it. So if your choir doesn't read and you model it for them as per normal, it would still be really useful for me to know how they go.
Please please please if you do it, let me know. Thanks for being part of this.
Also, more generally, please feel free to let me know what sort of things you wish your choristers knew about reading music. What would help your choir rehearsals, their confidence, everyone's joy? If I can figure out a way to make teaching material for you, I will be happy to include it!