Saturday, March 26, 2011
For the finale of the show we brought back the singers and dancers from earlier to join the Orff and Recorder Ensemble in a performance of the Hungarian Renaissance piece, "Ungaresca" Like many pieces of music from that era "Ungaresca" has sections that are in duple (2) and triple (3). This present special challenges to young musicians, but the kids handled them well, especially when you consider that this performance was the only time the three groups actually got to work together.
Great work everyone. Thanks to Mr. Pratt, Mr. Bassett and Ms. Kopacz for their wonderful contributions. And extra special thanks the Katie's mom Alysoun Higgins for suggesting this idea. It's a keeper!
For this spring's concert in the park, it was suggested that with combine our show with PTA's Reflections Art Show and I thought it was an inspired idea. Not only did we get a larger turnout than usual, it also generated a much greater sense of an Arts Community at Third Street. In these tough times when arts education programs are dismantled everywhere, that spirit of community is so important.
The program included singing by the 4th graders in room 7 and 19 who are presenting a production of "Oliver!" later in the year, dancing from Michelle Kopacz's Kids KOR Hip Hop & Tap and Movement classes. Of course my focus is always on the ensembles. Here's a video of our first number last night - Canon #41.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The focus of this week's final class was on arranging our songs for presentation. As the students have been learning over the course of these ten weeks, songs frequently begin and end with a very simple idea -- it is the arranging of the material -- adding variations, instrumental breaks, intros and codas and so on, that allows the material to be extended in a way that is suitable for dancing, performing and, hopefully, enjoying. The recording here is an arrangement by Ms. Polacheck's class of one of their best songs. Considering that they had about ten minutes to develop and rehearse their arrangement, I thought they did an amazing job. Use the score above to sing along.
I was sorry that preparations for the concert on Friday and other commitments made it difficult for all the fourth grade classes to fully participate today, but overall I am extremely pleased with the work 4th grade did this year. 4th graders -- are you ready for instrumental composition next year?
For our final class the students learned a Jamaican song, "Bam Chi Chi Bam," them performed it on the Orff instruments as well as their gourd drums. It was fitting that we ended on a song that blends English lyrics with African influenced dialect, as a big part of our focus this year has been African music's contribution to music generally, particularly when it comes to the concept of beat and rhythm.
Of course the best part of the lesson was the end -- the kids get to take the drums they made home!
I was thrilled with the results of last weeks assignment! The kids really did a marvelous job creating songs that were funny and quite singable.
Class began this week with singing the children's work (include the four songs shown above -- clicking on the scores makes them larger). The rest of the time was spent reviewing each completed song in every class using a laptop computer and ELMO projector. Students were able to see and hear their compositions, make adjustments and provide both practical and aesthetic evaluations of their peers work.
In all 45 songs were produced -- nicely done 4th grade!
For music this week 2nd graders moved to the auditorium again so that we could make use of the Orff Xylophones. We extended last week's improvisatory session where these instruments were used for their "sound effects" quality and began to talk about specific pitches and pitch sequences. By the end of the lesson each class had constructed a unique 4 line piece that they could read as well as play.
This week in 4th grade music class was run as a lab to give kids a chance to revise and rework their melodies. Many students were still challenged by the idea that each syllable should be assigned one note. Others had constructed melodies that contained intervallic leaps too challenging to be sung. When it comes to singing. notes that are close to each other in terms of intervals are usually best. Once again the students had the Orff instruments, pianos and my expertise (such as it is) to make use off. Some very nice pieces are beginning to develop!
Homework -- finished revised songs by Friday.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Once you know the main melody take a crack at the parallel harmony line. I need at least a couple of you to play it for the concert.
Hey recorder cats -- sorry it took a bit to post this. Traffic on my hosting site was very heavy this weekend. At any rate here is the third and final song you will need to learn for out concert on March 25. Everybody should at least be able to play the melody.
The goal in week 8 was to introduce pitched percussion into the equation so that the kids can see that there is a simple relationship between melody and rhythm. To that end I brought out the Orff instrumentarium that Friends of Third bought several years ago. Although most of the kids had seen the instruments in Kinder and First Grade, this was one of the first opportunities they have had knowing a bit about steady beat, rhythm and improvisation. This came in very handy as each class developed an improvisation piece around the idea of a rain storm.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I was extremely pleased with the poems/lyrics the kids produced this week. Nearly everybody completed the assignment. Now the next step is to set these words to music. To do that we are using a hexatonic (6 note) scale to remove the unpleasant sounding notes. The kids will then use their developing understanding of rhythm and contour to create melodies.
There is no music class next week, so the kids will have plenty of time to tinker. Hopefully each class will produce at least one song they can see themselves performing,
"Che Che Koolay" is a call and response song from Ghana. In call and response the leader sings, plays or moves a phrase at a time and everybody else echoes them. It is typical of many African songs that this way of learning is also incorporated into how the piece is ultimately performed.
This makes call and response and excellent way to learn improvisation by providing a context for short improvisational ideas. As can be seen in these pictures the kids all took turns being the leader and have the rest of us try to echo them, first using body percussion and the using the drums. They had a great time!
This week we returned to our discussion of the text of song lyrics, as prelude to breaking into song writing teams and writing original songs. Using the cowboy ballad "Streets of Laredo" as a frame, the students created their own lyrics with the rhythmic and rhyming structure of the existing song. All five classes did a wonderful job! Students were then put into teams of two or three and asked to write a four line poem using one of several basic themes.
This was also the week that finally got around to putting some of the 4th graders excellent work on my bulletin boards.
Homework -- complete your four line poem/lyric with your partner or partners.
Friday's lesson began with the Nigerian song "Ise Oluwa." This slow song in 6/8 is a perfect vehicle for exploring some basic techniques for playing the gourd drums. Of course the most fundamental lesson about drumming to respect your instrument and your fellow musicians.
We also spent a little learning to read drum music. In drumming this means being able to "read" the silences as well.