Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leading the Singing

We had a blast at Primary today!  I have noticed, on several occasions, many of the children attempting to duplicate my song-leading.  Last week I asked the children if they would like to learn how to lead the music.  They were really excited about it.  Surely I wasn't the first primary chorister to take on this challenge, right?  So I hit "Sugardoodle" and, sure enough, someone had handily posted a wonderful teaching plan...just what I was looking for.  Here it is, her plan written by Brooke Wakefield, word for word:

"I substituted as the Primary Pianist today and thought our Primary Music Leader did such a great job today...I asked her if I could share what she did.  She is trying to come up with ideas to get the children to watch her and understand conducting (how to do it and how to follow the conductor).

She started by tapping the music stand and raising her hands and watched everyone to see what they'd do.  They looked at her and wondered what she was doing.  She asked them, "Have you ever been to a musical performance or watched a conductor as he/she is getting ready to start?  What does it mean when they tap their baton on the music stand?
It means that they are ready to start.  When we do our Primary Program, I will do the same thing.  She showed them how a conductor instructs everyone to stand and sit down.  We practiced it a few times.

Then she gave each child a straw.  (I used unsharpened pencils.)  She told them if she saw them messing or playing around with it, instead of following her instructions, they would lose their leading stick and wouldn't get it back.  It did the trick as they were really great with them.  First she had me play, "Listen,Listen" and had them conduct "however it felt most natural" listen for the beat.  Everyone did a pretty good job.  Then she taught them how to conduct 2/4.  I played the song again and they all conducted.

We tried another song and then she had them sing AND lead.  After they got it down pretty well, she called three children forward to lead the Primary.  She sat down on the front row and asked the three children to please raise their sticks until everyone was ready and watching.  She also informed them that the pianist (me) wouldn't start until THEY told me to.  We sang through the song and they did a great job.

She sent them back to their seats and called up three new children.  She asked them, "Did you ALSO know that you are in charge of telling the pianist how fast and slow to go?  How do you think they know how fast to play?"  She then demonstrated to the three children that the faster you move your leading stick, the faster the pianist will play.  We sang the next song and all three children started conducting at lightening speed (which meant that the children had to sing at lightening speed as I did my best to play that fast.  Everyone struggled; however, she said, "Why do you think we only have one conductor and not three?"  She got some great answers on that one...

Then, for senior primary she taught them a little more about beat and key signatures.  She photocopied one of the Primary songs and passed a copy down each row and asked them to look for one of these symbols (she wrote them on the board) 2/4, 3/4, 4/4.  She taught them how to lead each one.  She also reviewed fermatas by saying, "When the conductor holds the leading stick hold that note until they move the stick again."  We practiced this a few times by singing "Listen, Listen:.

The children did SO well with their straws and following instructions.  In fact, I would venture to say that the Junior Primary did even better than the Senior Primary.  They were so excited to learn how to conduct.  It will help them to know what all of her hand signals mean and why it is so important for them to watch her."

I pretty much followed this great plan as it was laid out.  I just didn't have them practice standing and sitting because we'd already practiced that prior to the program.  I passed out a bunch of primary songbooks for the children to find songs in the key signatures we were learning, then we sang and led those. 

Afterwards our First Counselor came up to me and said she had tried many times to teach her kids how to lead music in their Family Home Evenings....without success.  Now, today, she watched as her child lead the music perfectly.  Compliments don't come any better than that!