While I've been here for Daniel's birth, I've had the privilege of joining the family for their noontime and evening family times. They begin with a general picking up of toys, followed by the meal. Family devotions, based on those in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, come immediately after lunch, and again in the evening after bedtime preparations and some play time (if the former haven't taken too long).
Two of the most amazing parts of the procedure are individual prayers with the children—Joseph spontaneously started praying for Daniel as he is prayed for by the adults—and singing time. The latter has been a growth opportunity for me despite all my choir training, because it's done a cappella. Normally I don't find singing the alto line of hymns to be difficult, but singing without accompaniment is much more of a challenge. Nonetheless, it's been awesome. Even our three-part harmony is lovely, and it was really great when Porter was here to add the tenor part to our soprano, alto, and bass. The kids don't sing with us—yet—but are taking it all in. Joseph has memorized several of the hymns and can occasionally be heard singing parts of them as he goes about his daily activities. (We have another grandson who sings or whistles a lot, too. Recently he was overheard moving seamlessly between Funniculi, Funnicula and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.)
With all due respect to Sunday School/Children's Church, Vacation Bible School, and the many and varied children's music programs available, I think this integrated family prayer and singing time is an unbeatable foundation for a strong spiritual and musical education.
Not to mention a whole lot of fun.
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Come, Christians, Join to Sing arr. Carlton R. Young
I'm sorry I can't find an example of anyone singing this arrangement, but the link will show you a sample of the sheet music.
O Great God by Bob Kauflin, arr. Joey Hoelscher
This quotation from an interview with Anne Fine set me to thinking. (H/T Stephan)
[I] hate the way that we have weeded out the things that I remember made my heart lift in primary school, and were transforming in my secondary education. I mean, we did so much singing when I was at school – folk songs, hymns, we sang everything. But now that seems to have gone, along with the language of the Book of Common Prayer and so much classic poetry. And school days are horrifically long if pretty well everything you are doing lacks colour and style, just for the sake of 'relevance' and 'accessibility'".
Music was a big part of my own elementary school, though not being British we missed out on the BCP. Music lessons started in grade four (of six) for strings and in fifth for band instruments. Chorus started at about the same time, and in two of the three schools I experienced, we were singing three-part harmony. (Occasionally four, as in one school we had a set of older boy twins whose voices had mostly changed.) These musical activities were optional, but what stands out most in my mind in contrast to today is that nearly every classroom had a piano, and many of the teachers could play it. (So could some of the students, and we were allowed to use it some ourselves outside of class.) We sang patriotic songs, folk songs, hymns, Negro spirituals, and children's songs. And most of these we read out of music books. Not that we were specifically taught much in the way of reading music, but we were expected to absorb basic skills simply by observing the relationship between the printed notes and what we sang.
I should note that these were not "music magnet schools" but ordinary public elementary schools in a small village/rural school district in the late 1950's and early 60's.
Our own children had a fantastic music teacher in elementary school, there's no doubt about that, and their musical education outside of school was far greater than mine, with the availability of private music lessons, youth orchestras, and excellent church choirs. And being in the South, their high school chorus still sang the great Western choral music, which had already been all but banned in the schools we'd left behind in the North because it is largely church music. So I'm not complaining about that.
But something great has been lost in general education if there's no longer daily singing in the classroom, children graduate knowing nothing of the music of the past and without the most basic music-reading skills, and adults would rather attend a concert or plug into an iPod than raise their own voices in song.
I don't think, based on the interview, that I would like Anne Fine's books. But she's spot on in the quote. "Relevance" and "accessibility" are two of the dirtiest words in the educationist's vocabulary.
What were your musical experiences in the early school years? How have they affected your adult life?
I'd rather be with family than almost anywhere, but it's a pity that we only manage to spend Independence Day with the Greater Geneval Award Marching Band about every other year. This is what we missed two days ago.
I've written more extensively about the band before, so I won't reiterate, but if you ever want to experience the true spirit of American Independence Day, visit Geneva, Florida on July 4th.
I've been told it's a peculiar affliction, but I've always enjoyed listening to beginning Suzuki music students. There's a warm place in my heart for the Book 1 repertoire, both piano and violin. I'm not a music teacher of any kind, but recently I had the privilege of introducing my six-year-old grandson to pre-Twinkle and Twinkle on the violin. He has been taking piano lessons with his other grandmother for a year, and his mother laid the foundations for violin playing with him, so I was able to step in and reap the benefits of a prepared and eager student.
It was glorious. I can't begin to describe how much fun it was. He's very responsible with his half-sized violin, and the need to put it away carefully did not deter him in the least from getting it out several times a day, begging me to teach him something new. He has a good ear and an observant eye, and catches on very quickly.
His excellent violin is a gift from his aunt—it was hers during her Suzuki days—and has only a first finger tape on the fingerboard, she having passed the beginning stages with a smaller size. When it was time for him to learn a song involving the second and third fingers, I explained that he could use his ear to help him find the right finger placement, or I could put on some additional tapes. He asked for the tapes. While I was searching the house for appropriate materials, I suggested he listen to the piece and see what he could figure out on his own. As I was returning with scissors and tape, I could hear him playing: playing the whole phrase in perfect tune.
I put the tape away. He's not always perfect by any means, but if the note is off he's learning to notice and make the correction. I find this awesome.
I know most people aren't as enamored of beginning violin music as I am, but there are some relatives who might enjoy the following. The first is a pre-Twinkle piece called See the Pretty Flowers, and the second is the first Twinkle variation. The videos were made after he had practiced the pieces maybe half a dozen times.
The sad part is that for most of the year we're 1300 miles apart, so teaching him is a rare and special privilege. It's a relay, and I've handed the baton back to his very capable (though very busy) mother. Too bad his aunt—who is both a music teacher and a violinist—is almost three times as far away as I am.
Sunday, June 2: How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin, arr. Jack Schrader, Hope Publishing Company, C5491).
(A reminder, for the record: neither of these recordings is of our choir.)
This is another reason why I like the Episcopal Church. Two weeks ago we honored and prayed for our mothers, but subtly; it was not a major part of the service. Ditto for today and our veterans. We briefly recognized them, and prayed for them, but the service itself was arrayed according to the church calendar, not the secular calendar: the occasion was Trinity Sunday.
Which means, as it often does in Episcopal churches, that we got to sing St. Patrick's Breastplate. :)
Our anthem was Holy, Holy, Holy set by Robert Clatterbuck to the good ol' Pachelbel Canon music (Hope Publishing Company, C5470). Once again I couldn't find an appropriate YouTube video, so I'm falling back on the sheetmusicplus site, which is a very good rendition, actually.
Today we celebrated Pentecost. Here in the U.S. we do not have the wonderful Swiss custom of a Whit Monday holiday, but we did get to sing great music in church.
Any day that begins with Hail Thee, Festival Day, one of the greatest hymns in the Episcopal Hymnal—equally good for Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost—is definitely off to the right start.
Our choir anthem for May 5 was My Father's World (Gregg Sewell, Tribune Music, 10/2985K). I can't find a performance on YouTube, but there's a version available at sheetmusicplus (jazzier than the way we sang it).
Here's last Sunday's: Cradle Me, Lord (Poorman, Alfred, BSC00283). Just a reminder: this isn't our choir singing; I make these posts as a kind of audio and video diary to help me remember what we've sung, and I'm grateful to those who have provided YouTube versions, because there's nothing like hearing the anthem, even if it isn't exactly the way we sang it.
Our choir anthem for April 21 was Lord, Listen to Your Children (Ken Medema, Jack Schrader, Hope Publishing, GC 850O). Here's a recording. (Just a reminder: Unless otherwise noted, these performances are never us, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can hear the song anyway.)
What made this anthem especially fun was our guest director, Carl MaultsBy. My introduction to Carl MaultsBy came at the bishop's consecration, where he played the piano as we sang one of his compositions, so I was looking forward to this Sunday. I love the way he worked with us, and if we never quite got the spirit he was hoping for in the piece, the joy in his piano playing more than made up for it.
I've started a new category, Music. For now, it's a place for me to keep track of music we sing in choir, and other music that interests me. I'll add YouTube videos when I can—almost never of us, but just so that we (and anyone else who is interested) can hear and remember the work.
For example, this past Sunday we sang My Eternal King (Jane M. Marshall, Carl Fischer #CM6752).