The bitter cold did not deter my return to the schola. I loved seeing the Little Lamb Choir and their smiles, sparkling eyes and enthusiasm implied that they too, like the return to routines and making music.
I must first briefly comment on Nine Lessons and Carols. While some of us coughed our way through the service, I was very proud of the way they all rose to the occasion. They watched me, were focussed and appropriately delivered in an animated way their hymn. Certainly the amplification aided our numbers allowing their angelic voices to soar!
As is always the case we got off to a running start on January 9th. January is always a very interesting time. The added maturity that happens over these breaks makes them more ready to take some big steps. We are holding more and more music in our hands - not just one page handouts but octavos as well. This requires following along pointing to every rhythm, word/syllable, or musical note depending on what our focus may be. For the more intrinsically motivated readers, they quickly realize how much easier and faster the learning of music is. For those who are progressing at their own pace, small stepping gets them to also realize quickly that with practice those things that are at first challenging become easier. Already there was a marked difference between our first and second class. This stage of our music learning - making more sense of the musical score - requires time, patience, asking questions when you need help and being open to making mistakes. Once this new behavior is more established, I think that everyone will see that overall reading will improve - a win-win situation for all. Becoming excited about the wonderful world of reading is magical, indeed. However, I am ever mindful of the concerns, challenges and resulting confidence issues that may arise with some. I truly nurture this new skill as it relates to music in a gentle way.
As I have periodically mentioned, the music that will benefit most from your ‘at home’ work will be placed each class towards the front of your child’s binder. Reading to your child while they point to the words with give them even more added confidence in class. You will also note that our Tenebrae hymn is 4 verses - our longest one yet. However, the patterns and repetition make it very manageable. There will be a melodic ostinato in the second verse and small group solos in the third. With the Little Lambs doing it this year will mean that all choirs will have done it. It was first done by the Juniors in my first year at the schola and then repeated by the Seniors the following year. After a one year hiatus, it is returning. All of the octavos for the Year End Concert will be in your child’s binder by the end of January. Additionally, all of the Little Lambs may benefit from doing some SOLFA practice at home. Each week let them be your teacher for one of their songs. Very quickly your repertoire will grow. As you know, this is not meant to be a daunting task. Even five minutes per day will pay dividends. So, have some fun making music with your child.
Wishing you a blessed Happy New Year as well as a return to health. I know that it was a particularly unusual season for lingering winter time coughs, sniffles and such.
What a busy time since our last newsletter! Report card comments are always a big task but very rewarding in that I get to revisit the progress of each of my students and I come away feeling so blessed that we are making music together. I hope that you never tire of me saying this.
Given the date of this submission, I am unable to report on Nine Lessons and Carols but there is much to share about our fIrst Showcase of this schola year. Having it in the auditorium was a special treat allowing them to be on a stage and the Little Lambs adjusted very well to the space limitations for our games. They certainly delighted in our biggest train ever as we snaked through the auditorium in Engine Number 9. The 9/10 and 3/4 classes truly got into the spirit and their enthusiasm really helped get almost our entire audience on our train! I love this first showcase as it gives all a taste of what happens in a regular class; so you saw some of the procedures and the progress that got us to 'Showcase' Day. You also saw the great variety of repertoire that we cover. It spans the rich traditional childhood songs/games, many dating back hundreds of years which are the basis for the acquisition of many of our skills and concepts. We also shared some of our longer repertoire in the hymns that we sing as a congregation and it is obvious that we are contributing much more to the musical liturgy. You also got a taste of how choreography in "The Lion and the Lamb" aids the memorization process, allows our young musicians to be authentic storytellers and how it adds to the movement component which is so important for this age group. Certainly, "Santa’s Toyshop" was a huge hit for everyone; I was delighted that no one fell off the stage and that special, magical moment that happens every time Mr. Jack-in-the-Box does his thing is another reason I so much love what I do. This showcase was a huge success and I am so proud on each of my Little Lambs.
I have not yet mentioned our Nine Lessons and Carols selection,"We'll Dress The House", by Alfred Burt that we also shared. I thought some background information would be of interest to you. I first discovered this composer and introduced him to my Christmas Caroling Quartet decades ago. Malcolm also got to know Alfred Burt's music during that time and last year his Senior Choir did "Caroling, Caroling" at NL&C. Later that year we were gifted by Alane Boudreau a beautiful collection of Alfred Burt's Christmas Carols. It was then that we learned that from 1942 to 1954, the Burt family and friends were treated to a Burt Christmas Card including a new carol along with some of the family stories that inspired each carol. The year of his death was 1954 but the start of his musical life as this collection was published 50 years after his death. In anticipation of NL&C, I will look forward to hearing all of your voices raising in song as we celebrate this very special SJCS service. What a wonderful model you may offer to your children.
Moving forward into the new year, you may be wondering how you may assist your young musician. A little solfege practice would be most helpful. Additionally, I will make a point to place the repertoire that will require some practise at home in the front of your child's binder. Helping them track the notes, text and reading the words would assist them with this next big step of holding music in their hands - all part of making more sense of printed music that goes beyond a one page handout. So please look for our Tenebrae Hymn, our various octavos/sheet music which are stamped property of the Schola and the "Ave Maria" Chant. For the latter there are two Schola YouTube versions that will be a great aid to learning this beautiful chant. That information is on the "Ave Maria" handout. Any older sibling will also be able to help the Little Lambs in learning in a family setting - their very first experience in Latin!
Wishing you all the very best of this most joyous and special time of year.
While we are mostly settled into routines, some of our younger choir participants are delightfully egocentric and thus still learning what it means to be part of the larger choral experience. Some of the behaviours that are occasionally evident are singing in a different key so that one may hear themselves, being overly concerned about the behaviours of others not yet realising that one can only control their own behaviour, and struggling in some of our partner choosing games. None of this is atypical and I suspect that by the end of October this will all get worked out. Given my many years of teaching young musicians, I can say this with the greatest confidence.
Given the above, I am also able to praise much of their collective work. Our second first Friday Mass had most of them, singing not only what we had prepared in advance but also joining in other congregational responses. With another 7 masses left in the year, I know that their confidence and their abilities to participate will allow them to find even greater meaning as they more fully celebrate our masses. This higher concentration work is always balanced with teaching that is child centred, change of pace and lighter concentration activities. We are having fun extending our vocal ranges and already we have so many angelic voices with most feeling confident to sing on their own. Volunteering and participation overall, is greater than I usually expect at this time of the year and they are becoming good little Italians and terms like forte and pianissimo roll off their tongues. They are working hard to make sense of so and mi and ta, ti-ti and one beat of silence. Some still occasionally mix up rhythm and beat but this is coming. Rhythmic ostinati and round singing are challenges that they are throughly enjoying and getting much better at. I was delighted to learn that quite a number of students shared our Thanksgiving Song as a blessing for their Thanksgiving meal and many others are singing songs from their binder regularly at home or to and from the schola. I know that they love our games and these are featured in every class and are great teaching tools.
Now may be the time to review the letter given out at the beginning of the year about how you may be a more active participant in your child’s musical journey. As you may be discovering - all the music that we sing is memorized and while their brains are programmed to do this relatively effortlessly, longer songs require some 'at home’ time. This pertains to the hymns that we do at our masses which appear at or near the front of their binders. (Your child will know what verses we are working on). Both "We’ll Dress This House" and the "Lion and the Lamb” will require some home practice. Yes, we already are singing some Christmas music. Both of these selections will be shared at the Bow Valley Seniors’ Luncheon which is on your calendars for November 25th. It is always exciting how quickly the Little Lambs get bitten by the performance bug.
So you can see that we have already accomplished much. I love being a part of their early musical journeys and my time with them is a highlight of my week.
To The Parents of the Little Lamb Choir,
How wonderful it is to be welcoming returning and new students to the Little Lamb Choir. I think that most of us thrive better with more routine so I LOVE being back! I am so impressed at how well my young musicians are adapting to a new school year and are embracing so much of what we are already doing. At the time of the writing of this contribution, we have spent a relatively short time together and still there is much to celebrate. Many parents have already shared that their children are singing at home and to and from the schola. The enthusiasm I see and the singing voices I hear put a smile in my heart. Additionally, they are already working very hard to make new found discoveries and are learning a bit more each class about the universal language of music. While a few are adjusting to typical beginning of the year challenges, I know that they will find their way. With all I merely encourage them to try their best. Quite a number of returning students are leaders in the making and their participation is setting excellent examples for our new Little Lambs.
At the Parent Meeting, I had the opportunity to briefly discuss our program with a majority of parents. Though I touched on what we do to prepare for our masses, it may be good to give more of a context and to outline our goals for this year’s masses. When I first arrived at the schola, I observed that many in the Little Lamb Choir struggled with appropriate Mass behavior; it was a COVID year after all. Since then with increased involvement in the sung Mass, they have come to accept greater responsibility and have found a sense of purpose. This year in addition to the Gospel Acclamation, Lamb of God and Ave Maria in Latin - which are now established as part of our Mass Curriculum, we will add the following:
1. The first verse of the Communion Hymn - as reading abilities are still quite limited for many of the Little Lamb Choir, and we rely on memorization to learn much of our music - this is all we can offer up with a certainty. At Communion many of the congregation are not singing for obvious reasons, so we hope to provide some additional support at this point in the mass.
2. We hope to also provide support during the Responsorial Psalm.
3. I am strongly encouraged that the Little Lambs provide other responses by just using their listening skills and musical brains with the Kyrie, Prayers of the Faithful and such.
4. Additionally, I will pull whatever concepts that are most readily accessible to them in other hymns that are chosen.
Certainly, you may assist your child in all of the above. The hymns will be in their binder and so they will have further opportunities to practice much of the above. Singing hymns at home and church will be a great model for your child.
This is going to be a very exciting year. Please know that I feel blessed to be a part of your child's musical journey.
Katheryne Perri Edwards
Katheryne Perri Edwards, a singer and music educator comes to St. John Choir Schola with the following credentials. She graduated from the U of A with distinction with a B.Ed (Music Education) and from the U of C with a M.Ed (Specialization in Early Childhood Music). She taught music for 37 years. The first 13 years were with the Calgary Separate School Board where she received an Excellence in Teaching Award and her last 24 years with the Youth Singers of Calgary where she was the Program Director/Teacher of the Kids & Music Program. This was a four-level music education/preparatory choir experience for Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Grade I and Grade 2 Students.