New children's choir director


#1

Hello all, I am not sure if this is the perfect place for this, but we’ll see.

I just got hired on (I’m funny, I say “hired” as if a volunteer could be “hired” :)) as a children’s choir director at our local catholic school. The ages are 5th-8th grade, and I am fresh out of college with a music degree in hand. I have never had a choir to direct before, and the people at the school have demands (it’s a good thing!!) for the choir. They (and the children) really want to do harmonization music and whatnot. Thus far it seems all they do is a basic “sing-a-long” of the songs in the missal. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get these kids ready to sing harder stuff? Know of any online resources for making choir fun for kids of that age range? Any resources for music for kids that age? Useful tips? I am BRAND new at working with kids, so anything would be a huge help. I love kids and I want to give them the best of my abilities. Oh, and a real sincher is that we only meet for a half hour once a week :hypno:

Thanks all!


#2

You might try starting them singing ‘rounds’ which gets them used to hearing their own ‘part’ against another part. A good round would be Dona Nobis Pacem (not hard to teach them the Latin, it’s just Dona Nobis Pacem throughout). It would sound good at Mass and not take too much effort.


#3

I was thinking about rounds. Do you know where I could fnd music for that??


#4

God bless you for this ministry. I fondly remember participating in children’s choir in my Catholic school, beginning right after 1st communion, and we learned the various Mass parts in Gregorian chant, so it can be done, as well as traditional latin and English hymns.

knowing not much about music, but working with kids in an RE setting, I would hazard a suggestion to approach this the way you would a sport, start with basic skills broken down into core components. also they might do much better if they hear CDs of how it is supposed to sound. that is how we have taught the teens to sing some chant.


#5

CD’s eh? That’s a great idea!! thanks!


#6

Dona nobis pacem is good, but a bit much to start out with. Maybe try the simple children’s rounds like “Father I Adore You”, “Love, Love, Love”, or “You Are My Hiding Place”. I am also a Catholic School music teacher and choir director. Same grades in fact! Feel free to PM me if you like.


#7

First, I’d only start with using two voice parts instead of all four. Also, in order to help them visualize the music, remind them that when the notes go up, their voices go up, and when they go down, their voices go down as well. Also, my experience is that kids that age don’t like to sing something other than melody, so it’s important to make sure they know how the harmony fits in with the entire piece.


#8

Another easy piece is “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God,” by Kathleen Thomerson (I think.) You can sing the melody straight through and/or add an alleluia as a second part. Very easy, very pretty.

The Episcopal Hymnal 1982 has a nice selection of canons and rounds, including this one.

May I suggest you exploit the “cool” factor by choosing easy pieces from all periods. Think about high school madrigal choirs and how cool they think they are. Your kids can be equally cool singing some simple chants if you approach it right. And languages come easily to the young ones, too, so don’t be afraid to try foreign language songs. Silent Night in the original German, for example.

Good luck!

Betsy


#9

Fifth to eighth grade students are plenty old enough to tackle a little challenge. This past spring we taught a handful of young girls (6-8) Dona Nobis Pacem. They sang it without instrumentation. I recommend this one as it introduces both Latin and harmony. It can be simply stunning once they know it well. switchboard.real.com/player/email.html?PV=6.0.12&&title=Dona%20Nobis%20Pacem&link=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jwpepper.com%2Fram%2F8069562.ram

I agree with the suggestions of Seek Ye First and Father I Adore You. Will they be singing the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia? The arrangments in “Respond and Acclaim” have simple harmonies that would be good for learning how to harmonize as a group.

Can these children read basic music?
Do they know “One Bread One Body”? I know not everyone likes it, but it has a simple Alto harmony on the verses.


#10

I am sure that people will think that I have lost my mind, but I think that you should get a copy of the old St. Gregory Hymnal which was very popular before Vatican II, and is now being published by The Neumann Press (www.neumannpress.com)). That was the hymnal that we used in our parish in the “old days” when I joined our choir in sixth grade. It is an SATB hymnal, but you can find SA versions on E-bay. Give these kids the real thing! Teach them the Mass and the Latin hymns, as well as chorales, easy Mozart, Schubert, etc., and hymns from the Hymnal of 1940. Don’t forget chant. Teach them that they are carrying on a musical heritage that is sometimes a thousand years old! Don’t talk down to them. I remember one of the big changes brought about in our parish by Vatican II (I was in high school by this time) was that we were no longer allowed to sing in harmony! Keep your standards high, and you will attract the best young musicians. I loved our choir, and the knowlege that I gained in it certainly helped me when I went on to major in music in college. Our organist, who was a girl in my class, also went on to music school, and now plays professionally in a symphony orchestra. Many of us are still active in church music after almost 50 years! Encourage young pianists to study the organ, the king of instruments according to Beethoven. Set high standards and you will attain them. Kids want to be treated as intelligent people and not talked down to. Your kids will love surprising their parents will the beautiful music that they will be able to make! Congratulations on your new job, and all of us will be praying for you as you introduce your children to the greatest artistic treasure of the Church, sacred music.


#11

I havebeen told that most of them do read music. They sing for masses so they know the centic alleluia, one bread, one body, lamb of God, stuff like that. Thanks for the link


#12

If they are profficient music readers then they might be up to Dona Nobis Pacem right away. Another great two-part piece I did and loved it was Kyrie, by Mary Lynn Lightfoot.


#13

OMGosh… I am glad you asked! My kids had a variety of music teachers with different styles when they were those ages. Let me start out with what didn’t work ok? Singing along with Christian CD’s… doesn’t work! Screaming… doesn’t work! Letting the kids walk all over you…nope! Letting parents push you into giving their child the solo’s because they work for the school too… absolutely not!!!

Now for the list of things that do work…

  1. rules…make them behave and pay attention…but make it interesting by teaching in an excited or animated way
  2. hand gestures… trust me… it works!!! The best music teacher the kids had would make up hand gestures to emphasize words and even some steps too.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make the Alto’s for instance, sing just their part… and then the next group and so on… then start one group… have the next join in, then the next joins…etc. This works to teach them to harmonize.
  4. Instead of a traditional Christmas concert… try a Christmas musical. the kids like it so much more… and trust me, the parents too!
  5. Kids are great at learning songs in different languages too… Adeste Fideles, or for mass… Kyrie in Latin, etc.
  6. Sing along with the kids when teaching and practicing to get them to sing out (these ages are unsure of themselves)

When my kids went to grade school the teacher that was most effective took the kids to an area Christian Arts Festival at a neighboring town. Most of the groups were typical… some kids singing, others mouthing…and some not even paying attention. When our kids took the stage and belted out at the top of their lungs… doing hand gestures and taking steps here and there… they were the only group that got a standing ovation. They seriously blew the roof off that church!!! It was incredible! I got to be one of the chaperone’s for that trip…WOW

Hope this helps!


#14

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