Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to teach a choir a new song

I know this sounds like a silly title
for a blog entry.
But you know,
there really are different ways to teach.
I'm not just talking about
different leadership styles.
I'm talkin' about how people learn.

I wanna write about how people
who don't read music
learn a new song.

First of all,
if you have many musicians,
I would recommend at least a once a month rehearsal
for musicians. . .apart from the choir.
If there is only one guitarist
and a pianist. . .well, that might work.
But really. . .if there are several guitarists
or other instrumentalists
I would recommend planning your liturgies
at least one month in advance.
Pass music out.
Let musicians look at music at home.
Now. . .I'm not saying
not to welcome them to a rehearsal.
But I really think that musicians
should rehearse as musicians separate from the choir.
Musicians should not be learning music
at the same rehearsal that the choir is.

Why do I say that?
It's not just about the musicians.
It's about the choir.

To put it simply,
people learn a new song best
voice to voice.
In other words, sing it and let the choir repeat it back.
No instruments.
Not even a basic accompaniment.
Just voice to voice.

There can be such a thing as too much music,
at least as far as learning a new song goes.
Too much music, too much accompaniment
can throw folks off.
They are searching for the melody or harmony.
Give them the whole score and it lengthens the learning process.
most of us rehearse 1 1/2 to 2 hours a week.
Time is precious commodity.
Don't we want to shorten the time it takes
to learn a new song?
And, again,
let me say that I'm writing here
about a choir whose members don't read music.

Another tactic,
perhaps even before the voice to voice approach,
is to recite the text in rhythm.
I do this ALWAYS
the children's choir I direct.
The thing is,
once you start,
once the choir knows that this is the process
they will begin to pay more attention
when you speak the text in rhythm.
Almost as if by some sort of osmosis
they will learn how to listen better.

If a syllable has more than one note,
stretch the note out with an "h"
as you recite that text in rhythm.
(This is the Day
the Lord - hord- has made.)
Speak it in rhythm a few times.
Then, pluck out the melody on the piano.
Just the melody.
Then, go voice to voice.

And, again,
speaking of the choir
whose members don't read music,
I would suggest rehearsing the song
for three weeks
(or 3 rehearsals)
before introducing it at mass.

Why do I say this?
Because even though the song may be very easy,
many of them will forget their part
once the return home from rehearsal.
They may remember that it was upbeat
or solemn.
They may remember that the men did something different,
or that the key was high or low.
But they might not remember their specific part.
And next week. . .
well. . .let's face the truth here. . .
some of them might come next week.
And then you'll some who come next week
who weren't there when you introduced the piece.
So. . .that's why I suggest three rehearsals.

I know, I know.
Attendance is important and people should come
to every rehearsal.
But that, my friends,
is another blog entry.

Just remember these two things,
if you don't remember anything else:
1) Speak the text in rhythm
2) Teach the song voice to voice.

Please. . .
. . it will save us all so much time and frustration. . . .

Monday, April 6, 2009

Easter Concert at Detroit's St. Gabriel Parish

A concert of of Easter Music,
including some original works by our pastor,
Fr. Jaime Hinojos.

This concert will feature the adult choir
as well as the children's choir.
The choir's will each sing selected works
and then will sing together.

I make no promises,
but the event may include
a piano solo by yours truly!

I've been directing the adult choir
at this church for about 1 month.
I've been directing the children's choir
since late September of 2008.

The music for this event will be in Spanish.
All are welcome!

There is no charge for this event,
only a desire to come and experience
the music ministry of Detroit's St. Gabriel parish!

Come and see where I've been serving
for the past few months.
You might just come to understand
why I struggled so much with a decision
to return to inner city ministry.
This really is a special place!

St. Gabriel Music Ministry

Concert - Saturday, April 18, 2009

St. Gabriel Church
8118 W. Vernor Highway
Detroit, MI