I stopped updating the website over a year ago because I didn't have time while I was studying for my certificate exam (passed in May---hurray!). After that I decided to keep things quiet here because I wanted to focus on making improvements to the curriculum without having to make changes to the website all of the time. During the fall months, while my kids were at school all day, most of my hours were spent working on curriculum. I tested out an online classroom platform, created instructional videos and audio recordings, and tested out a lot of new materials and methods. This fall I ran the first section of BYZB 101, the curriculum's online class. It was an 8 week class, but as the class progressed, the students and I realized it really needed to be a 16 week class, as the amount of content covered is equivalent to a 4 credit college class. I also started training two other chanters to use the curriculum. The first chanter actually taught a second section of BYZB 101 and has contributed recordings and will be doing more in the future (male students benefit from hearing a male vocal model). Based on my observations of student learning, as well as student feedback, I have been reworking the class outline and getting ready to add a lot more content and support materials.
The students and I were really happy with what they were able to learn through the class. One of my students had been chanting Kazan's music for years. She took my 6 hour intro class at the Sacred Music Institute in July and then took this class in October. We had a follow up lesson this week and she has the pitches and rhythms on parallage and melos down very well for the 1st and 2nd mode heirmologic stichera and now she's working on polishing them. It has been a joy to watch her progress.
Before my kids are off for the summer I'm hoping to update the website, finish all of the additions to the BYZB 101 class (which covers ear training, learning to read notation, and 1st and 2nd mode heirmologic hymns), and get most of the outline completed for BYZB 102 (which will tentatively cover 1st and 2nd mode sticheraric hymns, 4th mode Legetos, Pl 1 and Pl 2 Heirmologic). I'm planning to offer BYZB 101 in September of 2018 and possibly again in January of 2019. I'll start testing out BYZ 102 with current students when it is ready and then hopefully offer it more widely in January of 2019.
I'm still ordering many of the materials from a print on demand printer. A few things are ready for bulk printing now, and a lot more are really close. I think I'm getting pretty close to bulk printing and sales, but I've been thinking that for years, so it's hard to say!
For a long time now I have had an inward focus, but I think 2018 will be a year of change.
We had our second Basic Chant Theory Class last week. At the beginning we focused on ear training using a new Anki deck that I made using visuals that go with my tetrachord cards. If you watch the video for the class you will hear my audio (with pitches that aren't completely accurate) but Nick Jones has graciously recorded each card. Here is the first deck with his recordings. I have been chanting with good chanters for four years now, and although my ear is better than it was, I think that I will benefit from these cards too.
Here's an overview of how the first ear training deck works. You will hear an audio and are prompted to "Describe what you hear." When you see the answer you are given a visual and will hear the audio again. Below is a sample of one of the visuals. The way the tetrachords are tilted show you whether the pitches ascend or descend. In this example you the upper diatonic tetrachord ascends from dhi to ni' and then the upper soft chromatic tetrachord descends from ni' to dhi. It's good to note that the distance from zo' to ni' is the same in both tetrachords.
After we went through the Anki deck I showed how to play a game (with multiple variations) to practice the scales on parallage. Then I taught some basics about martyrie. I created an Anki deck for martyrie as well, but we didn't use it in the class. There are three different levels of decks for martyrie. Beginners should learn the first deck. The second deck is to be used prior to when students study fthore. The third deck is the hardest and mimics the knowledge that you need if you start composing music.
If you'd like to watch the video for this class, you can find it on my You Tube page.
I have found a printer to print my materials in bulk. My goal this week is to get all of the files sent off to them so that they can get the proofs to me next week hopefully. I'm also planning to start recording videos for the level 1 materials. I tried doing a lot of recording in the spring but wasn't happy with the recordings--I learned a lot from them though.
I also printed some tetrachord cards at Kinko's to test out with my students. They will be used in level 1 for ear training and in level 2 & 3 to prepare for reading fthore.
Remember how I was alluding to a new material in my last post? I'm finally testing out a Beta version! I started teaching a new class on Monday nights on Google Hangouts Live. The materials that we are using will be used in Levels 1, 2 and 3. That's one of my favorite things about these materials---they can be used in many ways to practice skills at varying levels!
Above is one part of the new material that we used last night. I created this chart so that the lower and upper tetrachords are really obvious visually. It is also really obvious how the tetrachords in each scale are separated by the same interval.
Along with this chart we used a bride ruler (next to the lower tetrachord on the right) and a star ruler (it includes the star part and the bride below it which are next to the upper tetrachord and the dividing tone). We used these rulers to find common intervals. The bride represents a perfect fourth ("Here comes the bride") and the Star ruler represents a perfect fifth ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star). We used these rulers to figure out what intervals that each of the scales have in common. I find it is really helpful to know this information when sight reading.
After that we did some ear training exercises. Basically, I chanted a few examples on parallage and asked them to figure out what scale I used. Then a few people chanted an example as well. I wanted to do more but we ran out of time. I gave students some tetrachords just like the chart to cut out and I hope to use them in our next lesson. Before the next lesson I'm going to make some Anki decks (online spaced repetition flashcards) for ear training and we will test them out in the next lesson. Then students can use them on their own if they need more practice.
I'm only sharing the new materials with the people that are already in the class, but anyone can watch. After each class, the video will be uploaded to my YouTube channel. Here's the link from last week's class if you are interested.
Bulk Printing Update
In other news, I got quotes from 4 printers and have picked the printer that I'm going to use to order materials in bulk. My cousin's husband did the leg work for me and I'm so appreciative to him. I'll start working on sending them the files soon and then they'll have to send me the proofs. At this time I'm leaning towards not selling materials through my website. My time is limited and I want to focus on developing materials and teaching. Instead, I'm going to sell wholesale to some Orthodox bookstores and they are going to sell them retail for me. I'm so happy that this has become clear!
When the materials are available through the Orthodox Bookstores, I will let you know. It's hard to believe I've been working on this for 5 years!
On a more personal note, here's what I did this morning. I finished the path going around my herb garden (almost)! Next comes laying the paths in the center section. I also bought two dwarf pear trees that you can see in front of the fence. I think that I will plant them there to block the view of the road. The place where I'm taking the picture from is up about 2.5 feet from the herb garden and will have a sitting area. I don't really want to be able to see the traffic on our road.
I can't wait to start planting here. I'm going to put culinary, medicinal, and tea herbs in this garden as well as a few edibles (like kale, cabbage & onion). I hope to practice some permaculture under the pear trees. I'm not sure what to plant by the house, so if you have any suggestions, please share. I need to be able to paint the house so whatever it is can't be too big. But I would like to hide the foundation of the house. I plan to plant ornamenals in the upper sitting area. That way we can look out the french doors in our dining room a beautiful garden.
I have finally decided that the patio and dining set (with possible outdoor kitchen) will go on the back side of the house where it is closest to the kitchen. That will be a project for next year!
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!
I have a new material prototype up called the Martyrie & Fthores Cards. Dr. Nick Giannoukakis taught me the Fthores (modulations between modes within a hymn) over three years ago but my ear wasn't good enough at that point to do much with them. I knew this at the time so I didn't take the time to memorize them. I think I probably could have studied them a year ago but the whole high lead levels issue put me back quite a bit. I also felt like I should go in order in creating the materials and needed to get other materials done first.
But...the time has come, the time is now! I created prototypes a few months ago and taught myself the symbols in twenty minutes or so. It took me much longer to actually be able to chant the fthores with ease, but I am very happy with my progress in the past two months.
New Additions to the website
I have created a tab in the main menu called "Self Study". I am still working on adding content but basically I explain how to go about studying byzantine notation on your own; what materials to use, when and how to learn certain skills etc. While I don't recommend going this route I know that not all people can find teachers. I will continue adding to this page in the coming weeks.
I have shared part of one of the documents that I referred to in my last post on the Level 2 Repertoire page. The doc shows the order that I recommend teaching the Brief Stichera Verses from vespers. It is in table format so that teachers can keep track of what they cover each week.
I have started another weekly class with some homeschoolers, We had our first lesson last week via Google Hangouts. I think I was using too much band width so I couldn't see them for over half of the lesson but it worked out just fine. I will be doing extensive training with the mom over a three day period before the SMI and it's possible that she will take over teaching her children since she loves to teach as well. I will also be holding a one day workshop at Holy Cross Antiochian Church in Dorr, Mi at the end of June and will be teaching during the small group breakout sessions at the Sacred Music Institute this year. I'm really looking forward to playing some games and helping people accelerate their learning!
Trial by Fire
This weekend I led services since our protopsalti was out of town and our second in command recently became a dad. Instead of the 8-10 chanters that we usually have at matins it was myself, another chanter and the visiting seminarian. On top of it being the feast of Pentecost, we found out late Saturday night that we would be starting matins late and doing a typica service (picture me at 10:30 trying to find the text for a typica since I couldn't remember a single thing about it:) It all turned out fine but was a little stressful at first.
I was very thankful not to be chanting by myself. I have a really poor auditory memory and sometimes my mind blanks out for how some of the responses should sound. Luckily the other chanter that was there knows the services well and has a great memory for this. The seminarian provided a solid and much needed solo ison for us and did some of the free syling for Pentecost.
The last time I led was in the fall and it was also one of the major feasts. I had the pleasure of celebrating it twice as I was asked to lead a vesperal liturgy on Friday night at a nearby church. Then our church celebrated the feast on Saturday morning with matins and liturgy. I also chanted my first wedding that afternoon. I was fried after that weekend :) Despite this, I am happy to help out when needed. Maybe the next time it could be a nice, normal service and not a trial by fire!
I'During the past few months I have been trying out some new games with my students and changing some of the old games. The way I was using the Ni Pa Vou cards was heavily influenced by the games from Music Mind Games to teach western music. I have made a lot of changes to bring the games more in line with the structure of byzantine chant music. The new games really seem to be supporting my students ability to sight read better.
I have also been working on transferring some Word documents into Google Docs as I would like to share them on the website but need to keep making changes to them. I have completed a doc with the games in levels 1 and 2 listed in table form so that teachers can keep track of what games they play at each lesson (coming soon). I have also been working on a doc that outlines which games to play when (coming soon). Teachers can use this document as a rough outline (some games may need to be repeated) for their lessons. The third doc is the curriculum guide for the whole program (already available). Next I'll be working on the instructions for all of the games. Some of the games' instructions are available on the website but I would like to have a comprehensive document that teachers can print out.
I started working on some videos but quickly realized that I couldn't make one video that would serve the needs of chanters wanting to use the materials to teach and those wanting to use the materials to teach themselves (and/or their children). The videos geared to chanters that already know the subject matter will be much easier to create so I have decided to do those first. I have chanters that contacted me three or four years ago and I feel bad that I don't have more done for them. After that I will work on videos geared to homeschooling families and online learners.
I have really been dragging my feet on the videos and the marketing/selling of materials because those things aren't my forte. Your prayers would be much appreciated. This fall my three children will be in school all day so I am hoping to get a lot accomplished, especially these two things. I have asked some friends for help with the business side of things so hopefully that will help move things along.
Finally, another reason that I decided to do the videos geared to chanters first is that I feel a little uncomfortable making instructional videos for learners online. I have always told myself that I want to chant well enough so as not to embarrass myself:) I would feel better having more outside confirmation so I have set the goal to take the Certificate Exam through Holy Cross next May.
Since I rarely lead services at St. George I have had no real necessity pushing me to learn and I have taken things pretty slowly, developing the materials as I go. This has been a blessing but I feel that it would be good to study harder now. Hopefully my health and schedule will allow for that.
When I wrote here last I thought that I could get a lot done on ByzB in April, May and June. Then I realized I needed to build a chicken coop from scratch, do some major work in our yard, go on vacation for two weeks and finish a large festal icon by the end of June. So, I didn't have as much time for ByzB as I had hoped.
Out vacation was lovely. We spent a few days camping in the Smoky Mountains on our way down to Florida (and made stops in Atlanta to see friends and Chip's aunt). In Florida we spent most of our time in the pool or at the beach and the kids had a blast. On our way back we visited our god-daughter and the rest of her family in Poqouson, VA. Her dad is the priest at St. Basil the Great Antiochian Orthodox Church and it was great to catch up with them on Sunday and see the building that the parishioners have been remodeling for two years.
I haven't been posting much on the blog and have only recently started to update the website again. This last year has been a difficult one for me. I think I have rewritten this post three times!
My dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor last January and I have been making the 5 hour drive to visit him and my mom at least once a month, and sometimes more. During Holy Week last year I also started having health issues myself---fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, and mental processing issues. I found out in June that I had high lead levels and we moved out of our house for two months until the house was cleaned and more of the renovations were done. I modified my diet and I stepped back from working on Byzantine Beginnings and some other projects.
Thankfully, I have been feeling better the last few months although I still have lapses. My dad has had a long battle with cancer that doesn't seem likely to continue much longer. I am thankfully that we had this time with him though.
Anyway, I am hoping to get more done here in 2016. The level 1 materials are almost ready. I think! I keep adding more to this level which creates more work for me. I also have started to get a better idea of what is to come in the next levels. These changes are reflected on the website. If you go to the Materials tab and then the Level 1 tab you can read a little more about the specifics.
I am starting to create the support materials now---written guides, videos and recordings and those will be going up in the next month or two I hope.
I will also be selling my materials at a few venues this summer and hope to make them available for purchase online in the next few months. I considered selling them through the Game Crafter (where many of them are produced) but there are a number of issues that makes that undesirable to me. So, at this point I am considering Amazon or selling through my own website.
I created a Facebook page a few weeks ago and have started connecting with people there as well.
If you don't know what the Parallage Phrases are then please read this first!
I reformatted the Intro Parallage Phrases slightly. The first thing I did was make the background color of all even phrases very light gray. I hope it will show up just enough to help teachers ensure students are on the correct phrase without having it drain their black ink cartridge! I haven't been able to print a test page yet so that remains to be seen. Anyway, teachers will be able to take a quick glance around their group of students and at least know their students didn't forget to change their card or didn't grab two cards at once (if they grab three cards we have a problem again!)
The second thing that I did was to correct the back sides of the cards. Before, after you finished each phrase you would pick it up, set it above the pile and then pick the deck up and put it on top of the one you just finished. After card 20 you would then be back to phrase 1 again. My goal had been that you could then turn the deck to the backside and continue on to phrases 21- 40. But, I formatted it incorrectly so you had to manually put cards 21-40 in order. Now, it is correctly formatted and you can continue reading immediately!
Other Things to Consider...
Almost everyone benefits from looking at just one phrase at a time---both children and adults. I had thought that it would be mainly for children but one of my adult students had been using the phrases on a full sheet of paper and then later cut them out. She herself was surprised at how much easier it was for her.
For my classes, I went to Staples and had them print the document (8 pages) and then used their copier to make two sided copies. It is cheaper to buy card stock at the store and make the copies yourself. As things were copying I started using their paper cutter to cut the phrases out. I use colorful hair bands to keep the sets together.
I also bought an artbin carrying case like this from Joanne's in order to store all of my teaching materials in. I can fit 10 sets of Intro phrases, the Ni Pa Vou Cards, Greek Letter Cards, Interval Playing Cards, Tetrachord mats, Martyrie chits, magic notes and magic wands in it.
Now I will discuss the pretty picture:) Pictured above are some frescoes from the Smolensky Cathedral which were done in the late 1500's at the Novodivichy Convent in Moscow. As with many old churches in Russia the cathedral mainly serves as a museum (thus I was able to take these grainy pictures). It was often hard to tell who the saints were since I can't read church slavonic. Because this church was a museum it was more tourist friendly and had this sketch with labels in English.
The thing that I thought was really cool was that most of the icons had hymns associated with them. I have read many books on iconography and don't recall coming across this before. I would love to know the full text to any of these hymns if anyone can tell me where it is. I haven't had time to study the layout of the icons yet but I have photos of the walls, sketches and labels for all three of the walls. I'll share the others too if anyone is interested.
I have added another section to the website called "Other Resources". This is my attempt to put all of the major chanting resources that I have found at other sites online in one place for you to refer to.
I have included many essays that I found enlightening regarding the history and development of Byzantine chant as well as its adaptation into English. If you are just starting to learn to chant you should definitely follow the first three links. I have also included learning resources and references that I have used during my studies. I taught myself the most of the interval symbols and some rhythms using the Margaziotis manual. The other learning resources are more useful one you have that basic knowledge. There is also a section providing links to online and print sources for music in Byzantine notation as well as links that provide service texts and rubrics. Finally, I included links to resources for those interested in composition. The byzantine music formulae are the ones that I used to compile the parallage phrases
On a side note, my fall project is to finish the level 1 phrases:) I have been procrastinating for two years now, but the time has come for me to finish them. Actually, my friend Nick is coming to the rescue. We are going to work on them some weekend in August or September. He has tested out the phrases in a number of different teaching settings and I think he's ready for more too. I know that my students would definitely benefit from them.
Check out the links and let me know if I missed anything!
In January I was blessed by Bishop Thomas to be an iconographer. I have not spent as much time writing icons lately due to my work here, but I hope to have more time when my children are all in school. I started studying with Randi Sider-Rose, my dear friend from Immanuel Icons about 5 years ago, right before we moved away to DC. Both she and another iconographer that I studied under said that it takes 10 years to really be an iconographer, so I still consider myself an apprentice.
Randi and I worked together on a family icon for my god-daughter's wedding present and we hope to work collaboratively on a church or two in the near future. I have a few good things to add, but I must say that most of the knowledge and experience are on her end. Which is why I will be working under her.
Before we bought our big fixer upper house (and I decided to spend hundreds of hours scraping paint on a 30 foot ladder and painting the whole interior...) I used to spend many evenings working on iconography or chant. I am trying to work less on the house so that I can get back to that.
I don't think that I realized until recently how much ByzB requires of my creative energies. Many of the materials and games come to me "in the shower"---at those times when you least expect them. Many also come at 1 am when I can't sleep at night because I am excited about something new here. Every year that I taught elementary school the first two weeks of school were late nights because I couldn't stop thinking about all of the great ways I was going to teach my students.
The icon below is an icon that I finished in December. It is a present for Holy Cross Antiochian Mission in Dorr, Mi. My father-in-law and brother-in-law are both priests there. They have a relic of St. Maximos the Confessor and requested this icon (I changed the spelling to the Greek spelling after this picture).
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.