A Lot to Learn About Music
THE kids of the Colorado Children's Chorale learn all kinds of things during the time they spend in the choirs.
"We always have to sit up and sit on the front of our chairs," says Tyler, a seventh-grader who has been with the Chorale since the second grade. "Before we practice we do warm-ups. Sometimes we'll have to do staccato notes. We have to practice forcing air up faster so we bounce our stomachs."
Staccato is a word that means "detached," says assistant director Debbie DeSantis. The music is sung in very short, disjointed notes. Staccato is only one of many musical terms young choristers have to learn. The opposite of staccato is legato, which means "smooth" - the notes flow like a river into each other.
Sometimes the choristers need to sing softly. In music, the word for soft is piano. But if they need to sing very, very softly, the word used is pianissimo. Now suppose the music needs to be sung quite loudly. Then the word is forte, which means in a loud and forceful manner.
Musical terms are odd and interesting. Ictus, meaning the point in time at which the conductor's hand comes down indicating the beat, is how the children follow the conductor.
Anacrusis is the upbeat - it means take a breath, get ready to come in. Sometimes the singers sing without instrumental accompaniment. That is called singing a capella.
In order to know exactly when to start singing, young singers must wait for the conductor to give them a cue. He does that with his baton - a short stick he uses in conducting. At the end of some songs there will be a coda, a piece of the melody attached to the end of the song that says "this is the end."
Sometimes two songs are sung together. Two different melodies with two different lyrics that blend harmoniously together when sung at the same time are called a quodlibet.
Anne, an eighth-grader, says, "When we sight read music and say we are going to learn it, we need to know all the signs, whether we are going to sing loud or soft. What we don't know they go over with us."
In addition to new words, young singers learn music theory - the general principles of composing music - related to the songs they are learning. They also have to learn how to deliver the music.
"They teach you how to sit and stand, how to breathe and when to breathe," says seventh-grader David. "They tell you to keep your tongue up by your teeth. They give you lots of tips and it pays off."
"You go over a new song once," David says, "then you go off to memorize it. And then we try it together and look for mistakes."
And it's a challenge to remember dance steps while you're singing. Anne says that while she may be nervous before she goes on stage, once she is in front of an audience, she has to think about what comes next - not just words but also movements.
Anne says that every summer the Tour Choirs go to camp and the teachers give them classes in movement. "They show us what works on stage - when you act out, you need to make your motions big because otherwise they won't be seen from the audience. You can never rest for a second - you have to be on the go and ready because people are always looking at you when you are on stage."
What they all have to remember, she says, is "the words, the notes, the staging, the smile. Don't lock your knees.... And we're told to have a good time - but we always do. I like being happy and smiley and bouncing around. I think this is what I need to make people happy - pass a smile along." `Kidspace' is a place on the Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will spark imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, always on a Tuesday.