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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Things I learned at the KMEIA Autumn Seminar

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the KMEIA Victoria Autumn Seminar as part of my school-mandated professional development.

It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other Kodaly teachers and musicians in my area (as the only music teacher in my school, it can often feel pretty lonely!) as well as learn some new songs, games and choral techniques.

We also had a chance to brush up on the basics of Kodaly philosophy (check out this post if you'd like more info on what that entails) and of course, to purchase some new goodies!

We began the day with group singing (which is bound to happen whenever you get a bunch of Kodaly-ites in a room together!) led by the wonderful Cathie Neill. She ran us through a number of different canons and warm ups, but a few favourites which stuck out for me were:

Senua De Dende

Senua De Dende music

This canon is a Ghanaian song about a mother calling her child home. The parts are simple to pick up but rewarding to sing. Cathie also added a body percussion part, as follows:

Clap hands, tap right shoulder, tap left shoulder, clap hands, tap right shoulder, tap left shoulder, tap right thigh, tap left thigh.

You can perform the pattern with an action on each crotchet or each quaver. You can then run the sequence backwards and have both parts running in canon (forwards and backwards)! That should be enough to keep your choir busy for a few minutes!

Morning Has Come

Morning Has Come music

Another beautiful, simple canon, this one had an effective clapping pattern which, when staggered in 4-part canon in a box formation can create a pretty cool clapping game! (similar to Hill & Gully Rider):

Patsch right thigh, lift right hand up to where left hand is hovering and clap back of right hand with palm of left, patsch right thigh. Repeat these three steps with left hand/thigh.

Click fingers twice then reach both hands out to left to high ten a partner, then repeat two clicks and clap to the middle, two clicks and clap to the right.

Once four people are standing in a tight square facing each other and perform the song in canon, the actions line up perfectly so that each clap will align with another person's clap from a different part of the song!

Trinity Grammar School emblem

During the lunch break we were treated to a performance from one of Trinity Grammar School. Whilst the whole performance was lovely, I took away two particular tidbits that I'd like to share with you.

One was the use of Andy Beck's beautiful Kyrie Eleison canon as a warm up during the beginning of their before-school rehearsals (it was often difficult to get all of the students in the room right on the starting time due to late buses, bad weather, sleep ins etc and so they would use this song to get kids singing as they walked into the room and once they had enough to begin rehearsal they would stop). What a beautiful way to start the day!

If you're not familiar with the piece, check it out below:

The other tidbit that I can't wait to try out with my choirs is the use of symbols to represent vowel sounds! The Trinity choir discussed these and talked about the ways in which having a unified vowel sound had improved their intonation out of sight. These are the symbols:

Ah = beach ball

Beach ball

Aww (as in "force") = softball

softball vowel

Eee (a bright vowel as in cheese) = cup

cup vowel shape

Diphthong of ay + ee or similar sounds (like in "eleison") = clam shell.

You can adjust the brightness of the diphthong by opening or closing the fingers

bright clamshell vowel diphthong
warm clamshell diphthong vowel

Ooo vowel = eating spaghetti

spaghetti vowel shape

Another excellent session I attended was all about the use of physical activity to accompany rhythmic & melodic discovery in songs to assist with neurological development in young students. These were great exercises to improve co-ordination, proprioception, balance etc. as well as highlighting certain musical features in the music. They were well scaffolded for different difficulty levels, some of the activities even had us adults struggling!

One example I loved took a well-known song, Pease Porridge Hot and added the following level of complexity:

Pease Porridge Hot Music

- Face a partner and clap their hands (high ten) every time there is a taa, but patsch your knees every time there is a ti-ti.

- Try it using only one hand. You can either mirror your partner (both using the same side - one left, one right) or both use your right hand so that you are crossing the mid-line when you clap.

- Try swapping hands every phrase or every bar.

- Try jumping on the saas.

- Try putting it all together!

Needless to say, there were more than a few embarrassed giggles as we fumbled our way through that last one!

This session really brought home for me the myriad benefits of music education and that we are educating the whole child through the Kodaly approach, so considering things like physical development is an important part of our job, just as much as whether they can recognise saa.

I hope you've found these highlights useful. I highly recommend you check out your local Kodaly association branch for their next PD as they can be such a rewarding experience. I'm now buzzing with new ideas that I can't wait to try out in my classroom!

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