In the last week or two I have started to doubt my decision to teach repertiore in all 8 modes for level 2 (which is the first level that students see real music). "Maybe I shouldn't teach all 8 modes at the beginning....It's going to be really hard to get students to chant the pitches correctly for the hard/soft chromatic scale...This must be the reason that all the other teachers that I know don't do this!.." I was thinking that I might have to change the level 2 repertoire.
But then I had an epiphany regarding how to teach this. As I was driving around the waiting area of the airport after midnight it suddenly came to me! The games and the materials! I have been working on the material for scales on and off for a little while but I just wasn't sure exactly what the end product would look like or how it would work. Now I have a pretty good idea. This makes me less doubtful about my choice of music for level 2. I plan to produce a prototype soon and hope to begin testing it out with my students. I'll share the material and games on the website once I have tested them out.
I would like to explain why I chose to study all 8 modes using very short hymns as the Level 2 repertoire instead of something else. My understanding is that it is common for teachers to teach all of the interval symbols using exercises and then they begin working through the Anastasimatarion (the Resurrectional Hymnal) one mode at a time. Here is what I have included in the Level 2 repertoire at this point:
1) Brief Stichera verses
2) More Honourable verses
3) Brief Praises verses
4) God is the Lord (not sure about this yet but I will probably add it)
5) All of the previous repertoire could then be done in Greek as well (on parallage to check for mastery).
Apart from knowing what the interval symbols mean, the most important thing that new chanters need to master is the relationships of pitches within each mode as well as the relationships of pitches from mode to mode. Everything else is secondary to this central concept. If students aren't solid on pitches then adding in anything more than the most basic rhythms will make it even harder for them to master pitches. Thus, I think it makes sense to delay adding other things for students to decipher until they have the pitches down really well.
The level 2 repertoire consists of really short verses that give students practice switching between modes using intonations to get into each mode. This music requires students to develop the first level of pitch awareness---learning the scales and always entering a new scale/mode through the same pitches each time (through the intonations).
My plan is to use lots of support with the first set of music (mainly ear training and parallage games) so that students learn to chant on parallage in all eight modes. Once they have mastered this first set of music my hope is that they will be able to sight read the next set of the music with less support until finally they are reading the last set or two of music independently. When students master the pitches and rhythms for each set of music then they will go back and study the orthography rules, tempo symbols, how to conduct it (including accents and barlines) and possibly interpretation as well.
Once students have mastered the Level 2 repertoire I will know that they have mastered the first level of pitch awareness for scales and that they are ready to start mastering the scales at the next level. In this first plane students always enter a new scale or mode in the same manner (from the pitches in the apichima). At the next plane students must enter the new scale at any pitch in the new scale from any pitch in the old scale. This is a more advanced skill that must be taught after the first plane is mastered and it is this skill that is required in order to read fthora correctly. Many heirmologic hymns that are at the next level of reading (for instance the stichera after the verses) have fthora in them. If students have only studied mode 1 how can I as a teacher expect them to be able to accurately read a hard chromatic fthora in the middle of a hymn?
So, there you go. A brief summary of why I think it is a good idea to master simple hymns in all 8 modes prior to advancing to the next level of music
On the Home Front
I led matins yesterday. It went okay. I found some things that I need to work on (surprise, surprise). It was a long day because we stayed for a baptism after church and I only got 5 hours of sleep the night before. I was up late and then I awoke early to the sound of a rooster crowing outside my window. We managed to get another rooster and now I have to figure out how to get rid of it without making my daughters cry again.
Yesterday was the first day that I relaxed on our porch swing this summer. When I realized it I couldn't believe it. I need to do this more often. I haven't had much time to relax between children, the Holy Cross icon, ByzB and yard projects. On Saturday I spent about four hours laying the brick and cement pavers for the paths in my new herb garden in our side yard. The pavers weigh 90 pounds and I carried them across the yard (with the help of a dolly:). Still, I don't remember the last time my legs were this sore. I had planned to do all of the labor myself but then realized that I wasn't up to carting 4 tons of gravel and sand across the yard in a wheel barrel:) Our contractor had the time and I'm so glad that we had him do it. I learned my lesson after scraping and painting all of the siding on our house. I'm hoping to finish the paths by the time my mom comes to visit at the end of the month. We'll see!
SAHM by day; ByzB curriculum developer by night. My career was in teaching: kindergarten, first grade, bilingual reading, Suzuki piano, and Music Mind Games. Now I paint icons and spend lots of time making materials on the computer. My greatest joy is directing my students in their learning. This blog documents the process and provides a space for my other ramblings as well.