Chorister or Music Director?


I am a Mormon (nickname for member of ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), have been a Ward Music Chairman for 8 years, a music teacher for over 15 years, started piano when I was 4, violin when I was 8 and been trained professionally as a chorister (singing in a choir from the age of 7 or maybe it was 6.  It was a LONG time ago anyways…) . I have often wondered why we are the only church to call music directors as ‘choristers’. How can we get it so wrong?

The definition of a chorister according to The Collins Australian Pocket Dictionary is “a singer in a choir, usually a choirboy”.

Boy would our Young Men LOVE to hear that!

The question I have is: What is that game you play with a big orange ball, and have to throw it through a hoop? Oh that’s right. Handball.

Aren’t Ward Clerks and Executive Secretaries the same thing? No? Well neither are Choristers and Ward Music Directors.

So what is the difference exactly?

Well, Ward Choristers can actually be called to sing in the ward choir. We don’t generally do that, usually asking for volunteers instead, but it can be done.

Ward Music Directors (and any other director, I might add) leads or conducts the music. In Primary we call them the ‘Music Leader’.

The job of the Ward Music Director, as outlined in the church Music Handbook:-

 “recommends and conducts the congregational hymns for sacrament meetings and for other ward meetings as requested. To recommend hymns for sacrament meetings, the music director obtains a schedule of future topics from the ward music chairman, selects hymns that correlate with the topics, consults with the organist, and gives the recommendations to the ward music chairman to obtain the bishopric’s approval”.

May I add that the term ‘chorister’ is not mentioned ANYWHERE in the Music Handbook. Someone with intelligence did actually type it.

I know we Mormons don’t have great big cathedrals with gorgeously high ceilings and wonderful acoustics and enthralling young men and boys singing glorious hymns directed heavenward. We have temples instead. We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (on a side note, the ABC mentioned that they were “The most disciplined and skilled choristers in the world”).

Someone tried to tell the Relief Society group I was with today, whilst discussing time signatures, that choristers conducted. I don’t ever recall as a chorister (singing in the choir from the age of 7 to the age of 11) actually ever conducting the music. Our Choral Director/Conductor did that. I mean, call a violinist a viola player, and you would get poked in the eye with their bow.

Can we please stop referring to our Ward Music Directors as choristers?

If you REALLY have a burning desire to continue using the term ‘chorister’, please join http://www.choristersguild.org I’m sure they can help you out :D

Revision of 3rd verse ‘If I Listen With My Heart’

My Ward Primary have been having difficulty remembering the 3rd verse of this song.  We haven’t, after all, been learning it for very long.

They have been a bit restless because of school holidays here as well, so I thought I would revise the third verse AND get them active all at the same time.

We’re going to play 4 corners.  Here’s what you need:-

  1. You might already have the verses in a flip chart, so use only the 3rd verse from that and stick one ‘paragraph/section’ up in each of the 4 corners of your room.  If you don’t have the third verse to a flip chart yet, click here: Sugar Doodle flip chart or here if you don’t want to use too much colour ink: Scribd flip chart (change ‘when’ I listen with my heart to “if” I listen with my heart).
  2. Print out small cards for the Pianist (found here: 3rd verse If I Listen with my heart).
  3. Teachers (if doing this for Jnr Primary) who will help their classes and make a big deal of choosing a corner). Snrs can manage this game by themselves

How to play:-

  1. Everyone needs to choose a corner quickly and remain in that corner.
  2. The Primary Pianist will shuffle their cards, pick one, match it up to their music and play that section.
  3. The group who is standing in that matching corner is in the ‘hot spot’.  For the Jnrs, they must sing the words in their corner perfectly (with their eyes closed?) in order to keep playing.  You can choose to either let that one group sing it, or the entire Jnr Primary.  Snrs need to sing the whole 3rd verse up to that part.  Again, you can decide whether to let only the group in that corner sing, or the entire Primary.
  4. We start again – choose a different corner, or remain in the same.

I’m also going to do some fun action songs, but this will be our quick revision this coming Sunday :D

Five Little Ducks glove puppets

 

Five Little Ducks

I needed something visual to take to the Nursery kids on Sunday.  I already have a glove puppet with ‘Five Cheeky Monkey’s’ on it, but I had bought it.  I was up for a bit of a challenge today and decided to try my hand at making something I could use.

Here’s the end result.  It isn’t perfect, but it IS after all, only for the little 18 month olds to quack along to.

If you would like to make your own, you can make a simple pattern of your hand by tracing around your fingers, then making them super wide for sewing purposes.

I cut ducklings and the mother duck out of this template: Duck template, hot glued the duck pieces together, then hot glued them onto my glove.

The song is:

Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only three little ducks came back.

Three little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only one little duck came back.

One little duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But none of the five little ducks came back.

Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack.”
And all of the five little ducks came back.

“Dah da da dah is fun to do”

There is a song in the LDS Children’s Songbook called “Fun to Do” on page 253 (can also be found here: ‘Singing a Song is Fun to Do’ lyrics and mp3)

The lyrics are:-

Sing-ing a song is fun to do,

Fun to do, to do, to do!

Sing-ing a song is fun to do,

To do, to do to do!

Definitely not hard for young children to learn – the lyrics are not difficult at all and the tune is quite catchy.

I taught it to our Primary last week, and promised that if they sang it well, I would bring along some percussion instruments to play along with the song today.

They sang well, and today I brought along a bag full of percussion intruments.  I had 4 children up the front at a time and gave two children one instrument (e.g. bells) and the other two a different kind (e.g. claves), and we sang the song through twice singing “Playing the bells is fun to do” etc.  The children had an absolute ball doing this, and they all got a turn of different instruments.

Whilst those children up the front were using the percussion instruments, I showed the children sitting down how to ‘air play’ percussion instruments.  Ie. bells are a closed fist facing down, and you tap with your other hand.  Cymbals are clapping your hands together.  The triangle is your thumb extended and index finger pointing up, and tap with the index finger of your other hand.  Claves involves tapping both your index fingers.  The kids loved participating this way too.

I went and did a similar thing in Nursery today and the littlies just loved the instruments coming out of the bag.  I think it was the most attention I’ve ever been paid by 18 month olds!  I’m even more amazed that they banged/clanged/whacked perfectly in time!!!

Now, you don’t have to be in an LDS Primary to use this song or this idea.  If you teach littles in a group, this would be a perfect attention grabber song for them.  The bottom of the link above has some other actions the children can do if you choose.

Singing Time – learning a new song (with a bouncy die)

I am helping out with our Ward’s Singing Time until the end of January as the Music Leader has gone to Hawaii (lucky her!!!).  We were asked to do a Christmas musical item in Sacrament Meeting however only had 3 weeks to learn something.  I chose to do a Medley of ‘When Joseph Went To Bethlehem’ and ‘He Sent His Son’ (same tonality and they had already learned ‘He Sent His Son’ for the Presentation).  The task of learning ‘When Joseph…’ wasn’t too bad.  The Seniors picked it up no problems, but the Juniors were having trouble with the second verse.

I decided to do this game with them (both Jnrs and Snrs) and it worked wonders.

You will need:-

  1. One die
  2. One white board marker
  3. One white board
  4. An enthusiastic bunch of kids and leaders

How to play:-

  1. Write up the words of the song you’re going to sing beforehand on the white board.
  2. Sing the words through a couple of times with the kids once so they are familiar with the words (I played this game the Sunday before they had to sing it – they had already been learning it for 2 weeks prior).
  3. Ask a child to come up and roll a die.  I use a giant bouncy one, which adds to the fun.  They all want a turn of it.
  4. If they roll a 3, rub out every third word (or third word of the verse you are working on).  Roll a 6 – rub out ever 6th word etc.  The problem is if someone rolls a 1.  You would have to rub out EVERYTHING!  That’s also part of the fun.

I was so amazed at how focused the children were, and the adults in the room. I love getting the teachers involved, and as I had asked them also to sing up the front with the kids, they were determined to learn the words as well.

Of course, this isn’t limited to just Church, you could use this idea:-

  • in a classroom situation at school learning poetry
  • learning a new song on a staff (use notes instead of words – and rub out the notes instead)

Angels We Have Heard on High – Handbells

I was thinking about Singing Time in Primary next week, and I decided as they’re going to be singing in Sacrament Meeting, that I could do something a little more enjoyable in Singing Time and use the set of bells I have.  We did something a few weeks ago that they loved, and I will post that up soon however I got a little creative today and did my best attempt at drawing notes in Publisher.  There is a secret to getting notes in there, I just don’t know about it yet so please ignore the stems.  They are driving me nuts enough as it is :D

The colours on my version of ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’ are taken from the set of Aldi bells I purchased about a year ago.  The bells are numbered, so you may prefer to number the notes before you laminate the bell music.  You can also just use the second page if you prefer the ‘chorus’ only (and yes, the quavers are the smaller noteheads).  Unfortunately at this point the crotchets and minims look the same.  The kids I’m doing this with won’t be able to tell anyway.

I will be pointing along to the notes as the children play them.

For a copy of the handbell music of ‘Angels We Have Heard On High’, click here: Angels We Have Heard on High HANDBELLS

Edited to note: My printer decided not to differentiate between the dark blue and light blue, so you may need to write in “LB” (Light Blue) and “DB” (Dark Blue) if your printer does the same.

Music rhythm game ‘Don’t clap this one back’ with rhythm flash cards

I first heard of this game through Samantha Coates at the Winter Piano Teacher’s Seminar and I loved the idea.  I have tweaked it a little though.

How to play:-

  • Clap a rhythm to your class/Primary.  They have to clap it back to you.
  • The only rhythm they can’t clap back is “Don’t clap this one back” (aka crotchet, crotchet, quaver, quaver, crotchet – the one school teachers tend to favour).
  • Clap whatever rhythms you like, and throw in the “Don’t clap this one back” rhythm to trick them.
  • Don’t eliminate students in this game, as the ones who tend to get out first are generally the ones who need the most practise.

To print out the guide sheet with basic 4/4 rhythms on it (semibreves, minims, crotchets and quavers, no dotted notes), click here: ‘Don’t Clap This One Back’ guide sheet

If you would like flash cards of all the rhythms used on the guide sheet, click here:Don’t Clap This One Back rhythm cards

Variations on the game:-

  • Student chooses the rhythms to clap and the teacher/other students have to clap (or not) the rhythm.
  • Print out a few copies of the rhythm cards and play memory or concentration, clapping the rhythms each time a card is turned over.
  • Blu-tac the cards to a wall.  Teacher claps a rhythm and the student needs to identify the rhythm card that was clapped.
  • Use percussion instruments, one note on the piano/violin, body percussion to tap/clap the cards.

This is a fantastic game to develop those aural skills and will capture the children’s attention.

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