I started developing Byzantine Beginnings over two years ago and am excited to have my first set of students! I am teaching my friend's 8 and 10 year old daughters. Each week I go to her house at 7 am and we work on iconography until 11:30 (I started studying with her 3 years ago). Then we eat lunch and in exchange for her guidance in iconography, I teach her daughters chant!
We had our first lesson three weeks ago and I thought that it would be nice to give a summary of the lessons here on the blog. The games we played in the first lesson are the ones that I have listed as "lesson one" on the "lesson order" page.
After this I introduced the corresponding Greek letters using the Greek Letter cards. I explained that these are used for ison as well as markers within the music so that chanters know what pitch they should be on. We played the game fat snake. This is a good game because it is low pressure and yet fun. They enjoyed learning what the symbols stood for since they are different from what the knew from their Greek class at school.
Next we did the beginning phrase of the Nightly "Ni". They learned the first 8 pitches and hand signs.
Finally, I felt they were ready for the Parallage Phrases. When using paralage cards, I want students to experience the symbols and discover the meaning for themselves. Looking at the first card, I pointed to tone key on the first card and said "does this look familiar? Yes, it's ni! That means we start on ni." I asked them to point to the first symbol and to watch and listen as I chanted it. Then we did it together after I said "ready, go." I pointed out how we ended on ni. I didn't resist the urge to give a short explanation and explained that the ison meant to stay on the same note. We did the second and third phrases together with them following and depending on me. I then explained that the oligon symbol means to go up one. The elder student definitely understood this and we continued on. After the sixth phrase suddenly it clicked for the younger student. She got very excited, even waving her hands to show me how the pitch should go up with the oligon and proceeded to explain to me how it worked. I loved seeing her enthusiasm and it made me realize again that my explanations aren't necessary. We did the first 7 phrases and then suddenly it felt like it was getting more labored and I could see that their brains were getting tired. So we stopped there.
Next I gave them three interval cards: the ison, the oligon, and the apostrophos. We talked about what they mean and played "fine" to put them in order: ison in the middle, oligon above it, and apostrophos below it. We said the symbol's name together as we put it in its place. They liked making sure that the symbols were right side up and we talked about how that is important. I explained how there are symbols that have the same shape but when flipped around they have a different meaning. Like in the way children learning their letters confuse "b" and "d".
The last thing I did was show them a piece of music from matins. I had them find isons, oligons, and apostrophos, which they did happily. I showed them the martyries in the music and how they are just like what we have in our parallage practice. They really related to how it was like another language and on their own started pointing out what they thought was the equivalent of a word or a sentence.
The lesson took 30 to 40 minutes and was just about the right difficulty for them. We covered a lot of new information in lots of different ways. By using the Ni Pa Vou cards and the Greek letter cards, I front loaded the new scale vocabulary that they needed to know in order to be successful with parallage practice. The first 7 phrases of Parallage practice only go between ni and pa so they were able to focus on the meaning of the symbols instead of having to figure out what word they should be saying. Then I used the new vocab "ison, oligon, and apostrophos" in two low pressure ways: with the interval cards and looking for them in the music. They were engaged and having fun during the lesson--just what I want to see!
As a final note, there mother was in the background watching my 12 month old daughter during the lesson. She participated in the games enough to know the concepts and help them during the week if they need any help. They kept the materials that we used so that they could play games together and practice during the week.