Monday, September 28, 2009

Body Mapping

I recently attended a workshop on Vocal Techniques sponsored by my local chapter of National Pastoral Musicians (NPM). Using the Andover Body Mapping Technique, the presenter, Heather Buchanan gave us a new look on how our posture affects us when singing, playing the organ/instruments or directing. Body mapping refers to knowing your body and how the parts of your body move and interact as you sing/play your music. For more information on Body Mapping or to attend a workshop, check out these links:

The Andover Body Mapping Website:

Heather Buchanan’s Body Mapping Website:


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Ave, María, grátia plena,
Dóminus tecum,
benedícta tu in muliéribus,
et benedíctus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.

Sancta María,
Mater Dei,
ora pronobis peccatóribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of death. Amen.

Marian Name: Assumption Lily
Botanical Name: Hosta plantaginea "Royal Standard"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Missa Cantata

If you have the opportunity, don't miss the re-broadcast of the Missa Cantata High Mass in the extraordinary form for Good Shepherd Sunday on EWTN. The live airing was this morning at 8:00 AM from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL; the re-broadcast will be at 12:00 AM.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

HE IS RISEN! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
Now He rules, eternal King, Alleluia!
Where angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal, as God's love; Alleluia!
Sing in praise, you heavenly host,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!

Latin carol, 14th century
Lyra Davidica, London 1708
Psalmodia Evangelica, London 1789
Stanza 4: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Monday, March 30, 2009


I recently attended a workshop for teachers of the Visual and Performing Arts. While the presentations weren’t all that great, some of the sample lessons and activities were. I especially liked the instructions on how to make your own Boom-Whackers.

What are Boom-Whackers you say? Boom-Whackers are colored tubes of different lengths that when they are whacked on the floor produce sounds. Each student is given a tube to learn how to play scales and songs. However, there are a couple of problems with them. The B-W are made of thin plastic that will bend and break over time. Also, the B-W are not that loud. This recipe for homemade B-W solves both of those problems.

  • Three – 4” PVC Pipe (they come in 10’ lengths)
  • One – 4” PVC Cap for each note
  • PVC Glue to attach the caps
  • One small Carpet piece for each note (protects floor and prevents the cap from breaking)
  • Duct Tape (to attach the carpet pieces)
Pipe 1: C (51 ½") F (37 ¾") A (29 ¾")
Pipe 2: D (45 ¼") E (40 ¼") G (33 ¾")
Pipe 3: B (26 ½") C (25") F# (35 ¾") Bb (28")

If you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, they will cut the Pipes for you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

in Just- spring...

Morning has broken,
like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken,
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing,
fresh from the Word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven.
Like the first dew fall
on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden.
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, Praise ev’ry morning.
God’s recreation of the new day!

Written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931 and published in The Children's Bells anthology under the original title "A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)" published by Oxford University Press in 1957. It was written to fit the traditional Gaelic tune "Bunessan".

P.S. The post title is of course from ee cummings

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Patty Fingers in the Holy Water, Please…It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

I may not be Irish, but today, in my house we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, keeping alive our very own traditions. There’ll be no corned beef and cabbage but rather a very hearty Guinness stew followed by Irish soda bread. While the stew braises, the CDs in the background will be:

  • Irish Heartbeat-Van Morrison with the Chieftains Big favorite in our house since we're both big fans of Van Morrison and the Chieftains. Favorites are "Carrickfergus" and "She Moved Through the Fair"
  • Celtic Woman Some good stuff and some insufferable
  • The Chieftains 4 Any Chieftains CD is a winner but this one includes the absolutely gorgeous and haunting “Mna Na Heireann” (Women of Ireland) used by Stanley Kubrick in his 1975 movie Barry Lyndon
  • The Irish Isle-James Keane Traditional instrumental Irish tunes including a lovely "Carrickfergus" with harp
  • Windham Hill Samplers-We play the Celtic Christmas III and IV on St. Patrick’s Day; the music transcends the season
  • Gaelic Storm You might recognize this band as the Irish party band in the 1997 movie Titanic
  • Herding Cats-Gaelic Storm This one has a personal meaning as my copy of the CD was given to me by the band, while I was studying music at Edinboro University in PA. I assisted the band in multiple ways when they performed at the school. In other words, I was their "roadie" for the night. I fondly recall Patrick asking me if I wanted to go to the Pub with them after the concert. Unfortunately, I had to turn him down, as I was 2 months shy of turning 21

    We’ll toast my Aunt Maria’s beloved Richard, who died two months before they were to be married, with the leftover Guinness from the stewmaking. And then, of course, there’ll be the annual watching of Richard’s favorite film, The Quiet Man. We'll recite the dialogue along with the movie in our pathetic Irish brogue imitations, sing along to “The Wild Colonial Boy” and tap along to the infectious "Gary Owen" theme.

    Favorite lines from a movie with a treasure trove of great ones:
    Mine: “Who taught ya to be playin' patty fingers in the Holy Water??”
    Aunt Maria’s: “So the I.R.A. is in this too, is it?”
    ”If it were, Red Will Danaher, not a scorched stone of your fine house would be standing".
    Richard's: "It's a nice soft night, so I think I'll join me comrades and talk a little treason."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shining Brightly

Just finished watching the movie Shine, an inspirational biopic of the Australian pianist David Helfgott. I was reminded of how this movie had encouraged me in my own music studies when I originally saw it in 1997. Mental breakdown aside, I can relate to David inasmuch as the struggle to fulfill one’s dreams while overcoming obstacles is a universal one.

During my original viewing of the movie I was most desirous of learning the “Nulla In Mundo Pax Sincera” by Vivaldi, that is featured in the developing relationship of David and his wife, Gillian. At the time, it was too advanced a piece for me to tackle, much like David’s father telling Mr. Rosen that young David wants to play the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3. Now, having become more advanced in my musical studies and having acquired the skills necessary to master such a work, I am more motivated to take on the sacred aria as one of my new projects. Stay tuned for my progress in this regard.

Both the score and the soundtrack of the movie are very good. David Helfgott played many of the piano compositions himself, while David Hirshfelder captured the spirit of the movie with his score that blended classical music pieces with his own music. Among the classical pieces featured in the movie, David Helfgott himself played "La Campanella" from Violin Cencerto in B minor by Niccolò Paganini transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt, "Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 In C Sharp Minor" by Franz Liszt, "Flight Of The Bumble Bee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff, arranged by Sergei Rachmaninoff, "Sospiro" by Franz Liszt, "Piano Concerto No 3 In D Minor, Opus 30" by Sergei Rachmaninoff and "Prelude In C Sharp Minor, Opus 3, No. 2" by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

I know that there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this movie regarding David’s life and his piano playing ability, but that is a subject for another time.

For a listing of other movies in this category check out my Movies About Music and Musicians page on my Music Classroom website.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Music Education Methods

A good music curriculum will be a blend of many different methods and techniques. Here are a few articles I found from on some of the more important music education methods available. Personally, I am not a fan of all of these methods. However, some schools may require you to use one or more of these methods in your curriculum.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Liturgical Music Musings

To those of you who may have been put off by my "Liturgical Music Musings" post here is a little more fuel for the fire. In a 3-part article on the Cantica Nova website, Dr. Lucy E. Carroll shares her views on Musicians in Catholic Worship.

In another article, "Singing for the Supper or the Sacrifice?", Dr. Carroll discusses the various composers of Liturgical Music and the appropriateness of these songs for the Mass. Anita Moore, Esq., OPL also has articles to support this subject on her blog V for Victory.

One more tip that I left out of my original post is a tip for the congregation: DO NOT CLAP at the end of Mass for the musicians. This is not a performance and therefore it is not appropriate for you applaud.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Music for the Lenten Season

Music for Lent doesn't always have to be restrictive and funereal. While we are in a penitential state of mind, our music can reflect that state. The Alleluia may be omitted, but our voices raised in song can still inspire us to spiritual introspection. As we journey through these forty days, here is a an excellent website to help with your Lenten music meditations: Cantica Nova. Don't forget to click on the link at the bottom of the their page for a very comprehensive listing of links of suitable choral pieces for Lent with accompanying reviews and specifications.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hey Now...It's Mardi Gras!

Before we enter into the solemnity of Lent, how about a little party music for Fat Tuesday. Here's what I'll be listening to while I enjoy my Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo followed by King Cake:

And if you're celebrating Carnivale, you can samba to this classic:

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

(P.S. The King Cake and Sugar Mardi Gras Mask Pictured at the top of this post are my Aunt's from our joint blog, Diva Delights Cake and Sugar Art: Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! and More Mardi Gras Madness)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Liturgical Music Musings

Why has the music in the Catholic Church gotten so out of hand? The musicians play and sing as if they were putting on a show at the local theater, with music that is written as if it belongs on Broadway, rather than leading the congregation in song in the solemn celebration that it is supposed to be. The music is so rhythmically complex and the melodies disjunctive and discordant that the people cannot and will not sing. As Liturgical Music Directors and Musicians we need to curb this trend and return to the guidelines set forth by Church Doctrine.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the purpose of liturgical music to be prayerful, to include the participation of the congregation and to be mindful of the solemnity of the celebration.

The musician should be mindful of this as well. His or her role at the organ, or the cantor stand, should be to lead and guide the congregation in song. This is not a performance; facial expressions and body language are key in setting the proper tone for the solemnity of the Mass. The organist should keep in mind that HOW the organ is played should be taken into account.

In her blog post, Why I rant, Anita Moore, Esq., OPL says, “At Mass, we are literally at the foot of the Cross...So then, when it comes to deciding what is appropriate at Mass and what is not appropriate, all we really have to do is ask ourselves one question: would this be appropriate at the foot of the Cross?”

Below are my tips and suggestions for both the Liturgical Musician and Musical Director. These were put together after watching and listening to colleagues execute their duties as church musicians.

Tips for the Liturgical Musician:
  • Mistakes are human; be sure to give yourself enough time to review and discuss the music with the organist/cantor before Mass.
  • Knowing your music is very important. Review it, making notes and highlighting your trouble spots, thereby making practice more efficient.
  • Regular attendance at rehearsals and practice on your own is crucial.
  • You have to be comfortable in front of the people.
  • Have a clear and consistent communication with the people.
  • Articulation in your speaking and singing is vital.
  • Be sure to have a straight posture that is both conducive to singing and shows command.
  • The object is to lead the people, not to make it a performance.
  • Facial expressions should be kept to a minimum and should be reverential.
  • Gestures for inviting the people to sing should be clear and appropriate to the Mass.
  • Play and sing the music like a prayer.
  • Dynamics, when used correctly, help to make the music more like a prayer.
  • The organist/pianist should support the cantors and the people; this is Mass, not a concert performance.

Tips for the Liturgical Musical Director:

  • Know your Choral and Solo Voices:
  • Children and teens tend to have very high-pitched voices that are frequently off key. While a children’s or teen choir is very nice, the cantor should be an adult with experience.
  • Intonation and pitch problems will result when the voice has too much vibrato and starts to warble. Conversely, the voice without vibrato is not controlled.
  • Encourage singers to use their head-voice, rather than belting with the chest-voice. Belting will result in intonation and pitch problems.
  • Encourage your singers in the choir to listen to each other for blending and tuning.
  • Know your instrumentalists
  • No matter what the occasion, the instrumentalists should be aware that this is a Mass, not a performance.
  • Make sure that the instrumentalists are playing in tune.
  • The instruments (including the Organ) should not be too loud or overpower the singer(s).
  • Select music that is friendly, not only to the musicians and singers, but to the people; they will close their books and mouths if the music is difficult.
  • Make rules and ensure that your musicians and singers adhere to them.
  • Encourage your musicians to attend rehearsals regularly. Do not play favorites; use your discretion when rewarding your musicians, based on talent and conformity to your rules

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Orchestra Lesson Planning Help

The orchestra can be a fun-filled lesson or unit depending on your material. There are many resources to help you put together a lesson on the orchestra, but you have to be creative in your planning to keep the lesson interesting to your students.

There are many websites that can help students to discover the orchestra through exploration. If your students have access to the Internet during class time, then I would recommend doing a self-exploratory lesson with the following websites:

Books, with accompanying CDs, tell stories of the orchestra with a symphonic backdrop and can be read as a group or individually using various reading techniques. Here are a couple of examples:
There are famous orchestral works, which may be used to introduce the orchestra. You can play a recording of these pieces and use pictures of the instruments or the characters the instruments represent to establish the basics of the orchestra. These works have also been made into various films; I have provided links for the information on these films from the Internet Movie Database.

Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is a good one to use since it also tells an engaging story about a young boy and his encounter with a wolf. There are many versions of this loveable tale including puppet theater, animation, and ballet performances that students will enjoy. The following are links for other ideas and lessons using Peter and the Wolf:
In the musical suite Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, instruments mimic various animals through tone painting and the use of a narrator. The following links may help you to put together a lesson using this masterpiece:

Based on a Theme of Henry Purcell, Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is widely used to examine the orchestra because it highlights the instrument families as well as the individual instruments of the symphony orchestra. If you are interested in forming a lesson around this great work, the following links can help you:
The art work inspired Pictures at an Exposition by Modest Mussorgsky origionally was composed as a Piano Suite, however, there is an extrordinary arrangement for the orchestra by composer Maurice Ravel. To use Ravel’s arrangement in the classroom, you can consult the following links:

Tubby the Tuba is not an orchestral work, but rather an animated feature film, based on a song by Paul Tripp and George Kleinsinger. Tubby is young tuba who, after being ridiculed by the other instruments in the orchestra for his low and slow voice, takes a journey through many lands to find a song that fits his voice. Below are the resource links to include this tale in your look at the orchestra:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Websites

Over the past few years, I have compiled an extensive list of internet resources for music teachers and music students. These resources, organized by category, may be viewed at The Music Classroom. Lately I have been compiling lists of film musicals and other movies related to music. These pages are still under construction but are available to view.

In addition to The Music Classroom, I have an extensive list of resources about musical theater, opera and other related topics. These resouces may be viewed at Musical Theater World

As you are perusing these pages, if you experience any problems or would like to see something that is not included, feel free to leave me a message.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Welcome to the unveiling of my Music Notebook where I plan to comment on various topics relating to my music interests. Hopefully I will be able to impart not only my love of music but tips that can be helpful to the amateur musician, particularly the vocal one. Please check back periodically for my updates.