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.