Friday, January 18, 2019

More Tchaikovsky!!

The second graders are building on their knowledge of Russia’s most famous composer: Peter Tchaikovsky. This year we are studying his1812 Overture. He was asked to write a piece of music to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the War of 1812 when Russia’s army stopped Napoleon’s army. Since Tchaikovsky loved to compose long pieces (this one is 15 minutes), we’re just listening to the Finale (which is about 5 minutes). In 1974 Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler played it in his 4thof July concert, and since then it’s often used for independence celebrations in the United States.

We started by doing a parachute routine and listening for the things Tchaikovsky put into the music to make it sound like the Russians felt: happy, excited, proud, maybe a bit sad to lose friends or family in the battles. We discovered how he used dynamics, tempo changes, and instruments—like brass instruments, voices, and cannons (!)—to express the emotions in his music.

Here is the video clip we listened to.

After listening and discussing, students answered these questions. Their answers proved to be 
very insightful!

1.  When does the Finale happen in the 1812 Overture?

       beginning                middle                      end

2.  Why did Tchaikovsky choose cannons as instruments in his orchestra?
3. What feelings was Tchaikovsky trying to bring out of his listeners?
4. What do you think about when you hear this music?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

St. Thomas Church Pipe Organ in New York City

The Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, just finished Opus 93 at St. Thomas Church in New York City, their largest pipe organ to date. The dedication weekend was October 5-8, 2018. I was fortunate enough to be part of the company contingent who went to hear it and celebrate with the church. When I came back I shared some information with the children in class. Here are the pictures and sounds of this magnificent instrument.

For more information check out the church website
St. Thomas Church Miller-Scott Organ.

Daniel Hyde from England is the music director at St. Thomas.
He plays the organ for church services and concerts, chooses music,
and teaches and directs the choir of boys and men who sing
at this church. It's the only place in the United States that has a
boys' choir that lives at the school. Boys can get a free education if they are
chosen for the choir and sing about six services each week plus special concerts.
They learn all the other subjects from other teachers. Daniel is the head music
teacher. Students take private lessons, study theory, and rehearse daily to sing
music that is often sung by good high school and college choirs.
More information about the choir boys is in a video clip on this webpage.

St. Thomas Choir School

More information about the organ can be found on the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders website.

Dobson Organs

Listen to the Dedication Recital at this link.

Dedication Recital
Daniel Hyde plays the Dedication Recital on Friday, October 5
Since the console (where the organ is played) is under the organ case
on the left, a video camera is set up to project live so
listeners can also see the organist play. The new organ
is in two chambers, one hanging on either side of the church.
Most of the 7000 pipes are inside the chamber, but the facade pipes
are open to the front and are played by the pedals (on the left) and
manuals (on the right).

Old organ case filled with new pipes by Dobson
Daniel Hyde rehearses the choir of boys (in front)
and men (in red in back).
New organ case built by Dobson

The impost of new organ case is an important part of the
structure of the case. The pipes stand on this in
wind chests, which provide the breath for the
sound of the pipes.

The Dobson Crew who built this instrument

The organ console
This is where the organist sits. The stop knobs on the right and left can be pulled to allow individual or combined sounds
of the organ to be heard. Some are quiet (like a flute, clarinet or string) and some are loud (like trumpets). The small
buttons between the keyboards are presets to be used by the organist to keep track of stop combinations for
different pieces of music. The organist can set the stops to a specific preset button and push it to change to a new setting
of stops between pieces or in the middle of a piece when a change of sound is needed. The rocker tabs under the music rack are called couplers and allow sounds set up for one keyboard to be played from another keyboard.
The console with the pedal board
Besides multiple manuals for hands, pipe organs also have a pedal board for playing with feet.

The front of St. Thomas Church
This picture, taken before the dedication service began, shows the wall behind the altar,
called the reredos, which contains many carvings of historic people.
The organ cases hang on the side walls, with the choir stalls are below them.
The church is about one football field long and about nine stories tall.

Elementary Concerts 2018-19

December 3  
6:00 pm    1st-2ndgrades
6:45 pm    3rd-4thgrades
Middle School Auditorium

March 4     (class times TBA)
5:30 pm     Kindergarten
6:15 pm     Kindergarten
7:00 pm     Kindergarten
Elementary Gym

March 5
5:30 pm    TK
6:15 pm     Kindergarten
Elementary Gym

May 10   Art, Music, PE
            Extravaganza Day

Friday, March 30, 2018

Kindergarten Classes Reflect on their Concert

All musicians think back on performances to enjoy the good parts and think about how to improve the parts that didn’t work as planned. Each year when we finish a concert, I lead children to do the same process.

In kindergarten I asked them three questions:
  1. What did you do to make good music at the concert?
  2. If we could do the concert again and you were the teacher, what would be on your list to practice?
  3. What was your favorite piece and why?

Thew were quite articulate! Here are their answers.

Mrs. Stelling’s Class

Making Good Music

This Land is Your Land
  • We walked at the right time.
  • We used creeping beats with our arms.

  • We started together.
  • We played creeping beats on the drums together.

Charlie Over the Ocean
  • We used singing voices on the echo.

Practice This
This Land is Your Land
  • Practice moving with walking beats.

  • Practice playing our drums the right way.

Charlie Over the Ocean
  • Think about what to catch.

The Car Song because it’s silly
Mouse Mousie because there was good singing and because we could chase around the circle.
Muffins because it goes from loud to quiet.
Mail Myself to You because it has a fun refrain.
Aquarium because we move our hands beautifully and because it’s silent.

Mrs. Klaassen's Class

Making Good Music
Ebenezer Sneezer
  • We played Boomwhackers at the right time.
  • We used singing voices.
  • We played barred instruments at the same time.
Mouse Mousie
  • We played an accompaniment.
  • We did a good job singing.
Practice This
Ebenezer Sneezer
  • Play the right bars on barred instruments.
  • Get quieter.
Figure out how to find Titan Spots in the Gym.

Old Brass Wagon because it's fun to circle around.
Mouse Mousie because it's fun to run around.
This Land is Your Land because it's fun to swing our arms.

Mrs. Nicholson's Class

Making Good Music
The Car Song 
  • We sang the refrain.
Mouse Mousie
  • We used singing voices.
  • We played the barred instrument accompaniment on the beat.
This Land is Your Land
  • We listened and did the right moves at the right times.
  • We played the drums correctly.
Practice This
There was a Tailor had a Mouse
  • Practice all the "words" in the refrain.
Mouse Mousie
  • Work on cheering without voices.
Use our singing voices better.

The Car Song because it's funny.
Mouse Mousie because we got to play a game.
Tailor and Mouse because it's a funny story.
This Land is Your Land because we got to swing our arms.
The Story about Anna because we got to sing "I'm the King of the Castle".

Studying Tchaikovsky

This year the elementary students have studied Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky. He is best known for his ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and especially Nutcracker. We've watched excerpts of each of them.


Every year in December the first graders explore Nutcracker. I read the story with Tchaikovsky's music playing, then we watch the party and beginning of the dream. We spend some time exploring the moves that are the building blocks of dance (travel, turn, higher/lower, close/away) then watch three versions of one of the second act dances and discuss how the dancers showed the various building blocks. After that I put on the music and the kids create their own version. We usually have time for only the Chinese Dance, but later learn the Russian Dance and March with  parachute routines. They become favorites for years!

There are many easily attainable versions of Nutcracker if you're interested in watching.

Clips from Swan Lake

These are the clips we watched in class to learn more about the story of Swan Lake and how a ballet works.

Prince's birthday party waltz

Background information and interviews with the Corps de Ballet

Dance of the four swans (referenced in Corps de Ballet clip)

Main swan theme

The Story of Sleeping Beauty

For an excellent picture-filled summary of the story Tchaikovsky used, check out this link.

Clips from Sleeping Beauty

First graders watched the first clip from Sleeping Beauty (though we saw a different version), and students are curious to see more, especially how she pricks her finger and falls asleep. I can recommend these videos from Youtube if you'd like to share them with your child.

Act 1 Garland Waltz
This very famous waltz is entertainment at Aurora's 16th birthday party.

Aurora dances with the Princes
As in many fairy tales, the main character must marry. This is Aurora's famous dance with the princes, filled with amazing balances on her toe shoes (en pointe). We had some interesting discussions about these shoes with third and fourth grade dance students.

Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2016-17 Elementary Concert Dates

It’s been an exciting first quarter! We’re working on pitch and melody with ear
training, reading, and playing on barred instruments. Students have accomplished 
a great deal! I continue to be wonderfully amazed by their progress!

Elementary Concert dates
Fri., Dec. 16         Fourth and Fifth Grade Concert         7:00 pm Middle School Gym
Mon., Mar. 6         1st Grade Concert                     5:30, 6:15, 7:00 pm Elementary Gym
                       (times for specific sections will be announced later)
Tues., Mar. 21      Kindergarten Concert               5:30, 6:15, 7:00 pm Elementary Gym
                       (times for specific sections will be announced later)
Mon., April 3         2nd & 3rd Concert                       6:30 pm Middle School Auditorium

                                             Hope to see you there!

Tuneful Singers, Wonderful Beat-keepers, and New Instruments!

New xylophones at the Elementary building
What a way to start the year! I've been pleasantly surprised by what children remember from last year—and what beautiful singers we have! Every level has some amazing individuals, but there are whole classes singing lovely songs already.

Audio recording of Kindergarten singing Ten in the Bed (no video, but great sound!)

This year I see Transitional Kindergarten through Third Grade twice a week and have time to fit the morning sessions of 3-year and 4-year old preschool in both Rockwell City and Lake City. Our focus at the beginning of the year is to get back into singing tunefully and making our rhythms come together on a common beat. Here are some second graders creating machines to fit the beat. Making music is all about working together to make things happen!

Machine 1                                        Machine 3                             Machine 5

Machine 2                                        Machine 4                             Machine 6

 We've played games and a few instruments, so there's been a lot of fun happening in the Music Room.

Here Kindergarteners create short and long sound compositions with balloon pictures. Next they will add triangles and rhythm sticks.