Thursday, 31 July 2014

Teaching children music and the monkey business

 My day off today, and the first day off for ages that I don’t have to get up for some reason, so I got up earlier than usual. During term time I have to get up to make sure the children get off to school, on Saturday’s the shop is open and on Sundays the children should be on time for church.

Now I can’t sing, I didn't have a very musical childhood and this came to a head for me when I was an “Anglican contemplative” this is another way of saying monk and doesn’t immediately sound as though you may have had a dirty habit.

I would say that if you think Friar Tuck here, it won’t help much, I won’t name and shame the religious order as they are still just about in the monkey business and for one reason or another, may not want to be associated with this blog post.

There is a lot of singing involved in the monkey business, mostly psalms, you have Prime at 6am mostly singing psalms, followed by Matins mostly singing psalms, followed by half an hours meditation when the natural early risers try not to laugh if others go to sleep and fall of their perches.

After that the normal milking the goats, washing and cleaning your teeth and having your breakfast.
 After that you have Terce mostly singing psalms, followed some strange monkey business which involves standing on your head (because this order all did their yoga together) this is followed by a lot of talking because of the “great silence” which means no one is allowed to talk from after Compline mostly singing psalms, the previous evening until after the standing on your head stuff.

You then go off and do physical labour, I did carpentry which involved teaching it to a lot of god bothering types, who went there on retreat,  retreats are basically religious holidays where people who aren’t monks go off and do the monkey business, so I spent quite a lot of time trying to stop bishops cutting off their fingers and so on.

Then you had Sext, not what you think, because we had made a vow of chastity, but mostly singing psalms.

Well one day the Abbot summoned me, he wasn’t much of a summoner, but he was a natural early riser, and I’m not, so as you can imagine I was a bit worried he was going to be a bit terce about missing Mattins.

I didn’t know if you could be unfrocked, well I suppose it would have been uninhabited, in the monkey business. Mine was was certainly a bit dirty after all the carpentry, although fortunately didn’t have much holey blood on it.

A fly drowns in your cup of tea, what do you do? Fish it out and drink the tea? Pour your tea away and make a new cup? Do you wash the cup up? Try to drink around the fly? does this depend on how big the fly is?

Well as soon as I got to the Abbot’s cell I realised he was trying to drink his tea around a rather large fly. “It’s about your chanting Brother Michael.” He managed eventually. Chanting obviously wasn’t to do with oversleeping and once I realised this wasn’t to do with inhabiting me, I guessed the fly in ointment was my singing.
 This is PSALM 149. Cantate Domino, which is latin for o sing

“O SING unto the Lord a new song : let the congregation of saints praise him. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him : and let the children of Sion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his Name in the dance : let them sing praises unto him with tabret and harp. For the Lord hath pleasure in his people : and helpeth the meek-hearted. Let the saints be joyful with glory : let them rejoice in their beds. Let the praises of God be in their mouth : and a two-edged sword in their hands; To be avenged of the heathen : and to rebuke the people; To bind their kings in chains : and their nobles with links of iron. That they may be avenged of them, as it is written : Such honour have all his saints.”

It’s a very old translation in The Book of Common Prayer, it predates The King James Bible of 1611 and even in the monkey business, where they stopped saying ghost, then stopped saying spirit, and were left saying just “you” the still use it because it fits the music.  

Anyway the upshot was I could carry on rejoicing in my bed, but no more cantate, I think all psalms have basically two tunes when you chant them, if you are in the monkey business. That is one tune between the full stop and the colon and one tune between the colon and the full stop, over and over again.

Well it seemed I had been singing the notes out of tune, over and over again for about a year. Colons weren’t mentioned but we negotiated around the fly to my full stop.

So on the face of it, I may not the best person to teach children music, but I have a special method.

Any of my children saying “I want a pony” is likely to get the answer “With or without ketchup” but one has had some expensive piano lessons and the other some expensive guitar lessons.   

Having a child play the beginning of  “Ode to Joy” at you over and over again on the piano, while the other child who has learn the chords A E and D on the guitar plays something unrecognisable but definitely completely different at you on the guitar, isn’t that joyous.  
So the answer was Shaky, not what you think but a bloke my youngest sister had the hots for when she was a teenager, my children have now seen the video on youtube about fifty times and have concluded that this was something to with the way he moves his legs.  

So we transposed “This Ole House” into C for one one finger on the piano so it can be played with the chords A E and D on the guitar, and I explained to my children that they had to sing it, tap one foot to it, while one of them played it on the piano and the other played on the guitar.

When a child is, tapping its foot, playing a musical instrument and singing, all at the same time, they don't have anything much left to do anything at you.

I don’t think I have ever seen children’s musical ability improve so rapidly, so very successful music lessons indeed.

I haven’t played with my organ for years and I thought I had better get my keyboard skills up to their standard, so spent an educative hour fighting Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, while mumbling, “face” “all cows eat grass” “every good boy deserves football” and other expletives. so they are beginning to master that too. A note here, which I left until later, for the youf of today, which is about learning about learning and teachers are not aloud to tell you, the ruder the mnemonic (thing to remember things with) is the more likely you are to remember the thing you are trying to remember, the bottom line here, at least with piano music is GBDFA so you can decide exactly what type of bitch it is that does FA.   

Obviously I can’t put a video of this up on youtube but I do have older children and I already have one of the type of thing that happen last time around.

The pictures in the post relate to pen sketch I did the other morning as I went back there this morning and added some watercolour to it.  


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