Since they have hardly any background knowledge about Byzantine chant, I started the lesson by giving a brief history lesson. I explained about the development of Byzantine chant within the Byzantine church and its roots in Greek music. I also explained how they would be learning a new musical language. I think that this is important for new students to understand. Byzantine chant is a specific musical language with its own sound that is particular to the Orthodox church. It has developed its own "alphabet" (all of the notation) and "grammar" (the system and rules of writing Byzantine music). I explained that in order to really know this new language, we would be learning the notation symbols and some Greek as well.
Next we started the practical part of the lesson. I introduced them to the Greek scale using the Ni Pa Vou Cards. I gave them each ni, pa, and vou and we mixed them up. Then we put them in order going up while chanting the pitches together. Then we added ga and did it all again. We added one new pitch at a time, chanting the pitches as we put them in order each time. Once we had the whole scale from ni to ni' we chanted the scale going up and back down while pointing at the cards. This exercise helped me to see how they are at singing a basic scale and matching pitch.
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.
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.