Fairfax Choral Society Blog

Sing, Learn, Grow!

Singing in a choir has so many benefits for a child’s academic and social development.  Our West Campus Youth Chorus coordinator Bonny Tynch shared this list of the benefits of singing in a choir for kids (adapted from the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir). What Do Young People Learn While Singing in a Choir? When they become aware that their voice is heard above the other and they blend voices, they learn teamwork. When they follow their music director’s hands through a series of meter and dynamic changes, they learn accuracy. When they begin to appreciate, or “grow into” a piece of music, they learn patience. When they refrain from talking and interrupting in rehearsal, they learn respect. When they listen and concentrate during rehearsals, and when they practice faithfully at home, they learn self-discipline. When they sing in different languages, they begin to see the world. When they don’t get the solo they wanted and congratulate the person who did, they learn good sportsmanship and graciousness. When they sing for the local festivals, they learn community involvement. When they choose a rehearsal or performance over a special event, they learn commitment. When they bound out of their singing positions to give a “high five” because they finally sang their most difficult piece straight for the first time, they learn perseverance. When they perform their first solo in front of an audience, they learn risk-taking and self-confidence. When they perform for an audience, they learn genuine pride and self-esteem. And for all of us – kids and adults – well, singing just makes us happy!  If you’ve sung in a choir,... read more

A Few Minutes With . . . FCS Musicianship Instructor Eric Sennett

Our musicianship instructors are the heart and soul of our music education program here at FCS.  They all have a passion not just for making music, but for nurturing a lifelong love of music in children of all ages, and in their families. FCS Musicianship Teacher Eric Sennett has been teaching music in the Fairfax County Public Schools since 2001 and at FCS since 2010.  A percussionist as well as a vocalist and music teacher, Eric has degrees in music education and music therapy and certification in the Kodály teaching methodology.  He’s taught kids from ages 5 through high school at our Annandale and Herndon campuses, as well as for Fairfax County Public School’s Summer Institute for the Arts and the Levine School of Music.  He and his wife Carrie are the proud parents of FCS  Da Capo Choir singer Maeve and her little sister Camille.  Here is what Eric has to say about music and teaching! When did you first start playing or singing music?  What was your first instrument? I’m sure I started singing before I started talking!  But then I started banging things.  I think everyone’s first instrument is really their voice, but I studied the drums first, then pitched percussion, and finally, I (re)discovered my voice. When did you know you wanted to have a career in music? As early as fourth grade, playing in elementary band–I loved the way our individual sounds all came together.  Or maybe in college, when I really began to consider the actual possibilities of making a living in music.  It’s never easy, but it’s always fun. How early do... read more

“Only the Best is Good Enough for a Child:” The Kodály Approach

The FCS musicianship curriculum – taught to students in our program beginning at age three – is based primarily on the Kodály method of music education, one that stresses the importance of child-centered educational approaches, a well-trained ear, quality literature, and rigorous teacher training. This approach, based on concepts developed by mid-twentieth century Hungarian composer, musician, and educator Zoltan Kodály, introduces fundamental musical skills in carefully sequenced lessons according to a child’s capabilities.   Children are introduced to musical concepts in child-friendly ways, through listening, movement, games, singing, and hand signs. Music used in the curriculum is drawn primarily from high quality folk music from around the world, in addition to pedagogical exercises written by major classical composers.  Students are schooled in solfège (the practice of assigning names to pitches such as do, re, mi) as a tool for developing the inner (musical) ear and building all musical skills, including sight singing, dictation, ear training, hearing and singing harmony, and developing memory.  These skills, developed through singing, are considered to be invaluable predecessors to further musical development, including playing musical instruments. Kodály approaches to education put into practice the passion the composer himself had for teaching children music.  “Let us take our children seriously!” he urged.  “Everything else follows from this . . . only the best is good enough for a child.” Kodály teacher training is a comprehensive approach to music education meeting or exceeding the National Standards for Arts Education.  Teachers certified in the Kodály method in the United States are required to attend three years of training in addition to musical training at the college level.  All... read more

Selections from Glory

In the upcoming concert, Portrait of the American Civil War, FCS & the Washington Symphonic Brass will be presenting selections from the movie Glory, with music by James Horner.  One of our Adult Chorus Members, Jamie Adams, put together some great information about the piece: Fort (or sometimes Battery) Wagner was on Morris Island, off the coast of South Carolina and was built by the Confederates to guard the southern approach to Charleston Harbor.  It measured approximately 250 by 100 yards, with walls made of earth and sand that rose about 30 feet.  It was bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and an impassable swamp on the west.  The land approach was guarded by a water filled trench and “torpedoes” (land mines).  It mounted 14 cannon and had a garrison of 1,700 soldiers.  The site of Fort Wagner has now been almost completely lost to the Atlantic Ocean. Although overshadowed by the struggles for Virginia and for control of the Mississippi River, the Union did establish a presence along the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy.  Hilton Head Island, south of Charleston, was captured by the Union in November 1861 and remained in Union hands for the duration of the war.  These pockets of Union control were used to support the Navy in the effort to blockade southern ports and served as starting points for Army operations against the Confederate coastline. In June of 1863 then Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore took command of the (Union) Department of the South, with headquarters on Hilton Head, and set out to capture Charleston, often viewed as the birthplace of the... read more

Do You Have It?

After several weeks of studying a new musical element, my students and I re-enact the dictation scene from Amadeus—I exhort them to write more quickly; they protest I go too fast. We’re not working from my deathbed, but there is a sense of urgency, and I think it really must be so. The scene is fictional, but nonetheless a depiction of two great musicians fully conversant with notation. Mozart sings; Salieri scribbles—in ink—struggling to keep up with the flow of musical ideas. When he sings himself, and writes musically, he is successful. A student who takes dictation this way will be truly musically literate. Salieri takes up the pen; I am a firm believer that musicians taking dictation should likewise work without an eraser. The great composers wrote in ink, not only of necessity, but of purpose. They knew already what must be written. Their pens were as sure an instrument of musical expression as a voice or a piano. Mistakes happened, just as they do in performance. And just as in performance, there was no time to stop the music to make corrections. Mistakes could be crossed out and corrected in later copies. Though perhaps less sure of ourselves than the Masters, we do not need an eraser to take dictation. Indeed, we have no time to use them. Even the brief second it takes to flip a pencil and erase a mark is enough to derail musical thought. The sound we had hoped to notate is lost and our musical endeavor is reduced to a frustrating abstraction. We should mark the page in rhythm, the sounds of... read more

A RVW Premiere

It’s always amazing and exciting when a new composition by a significant composer from an earlier generation is discovered and heard for the first time. The Fairfax Choral Society had the privilege of presenting the Washington-area premieres of two newly-discovered works when we presented Felix Mendelssohn’s Magnificat in 1995 and George Frederic Handel’s Gloria in 2001. Recently, a previously unknown choral work composed over 100 years ago by Ralph Vaughan Williams was discovered inan exhibition of music manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library. Conductor Alan Tongue, who found the 45-minute piece, entitled A Cambridge Mass, said: “I knew immediately that here was a significant work.” Mr. Tongue will conduct the world premiere, which will take place in March 2011. The score, written for soloists, double chorus and orchestra, was composed when Vaughan Williams was aged 26. He wrote it in 1899 for his Doctor of Music examination at Cambridge University and it still has pencil markings made by the examiners. It has been kept in storage at the library’s manuscripts room and up until now had been overlooked. After Mr Tongue’s discovery, he obtained a copy of the original score and spent last year transcribing it to make a modern performing edition. “It soon became clear that no performance had ever taken place as there were too many uncorrected mistakes,” he said. “As my computer played the synthesized sounds, just imagine, I was privileged to be the first person to hear the work.” Here is a video clip featuring excerpts of the Mass being played on the piano by 20-year-old Kausikan Rajeshkumar, currently a final-year music student at Trinity... read more
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