MTH

A recital can set a fire in the hearts of students and audience. There aren’t many opportunities to showcase students of every level. So… make it more than a recital.

My sister makes magical music recitals. She’s given me permission to share some of her ideas.

Here are a few features of each.

  • Costumes
  • Props
  • Sets–here are some photo ideas
  • Ensembles
  • Extra instruments and vocals
  • Audience involvement
  • Variety
  • Humor whenever possible

If it seems intimidating, start small. Even simply naming a theme can create anticipation. It’s a great way to promote your studio.

In each of my next few MTH posts, I’ll detail a different recital of my sister’s, including a few songs. This first idea she calls “Holidays and Seasons.”

Each month is its own segment, with appropriate songs featured. There may not be a holiday that month, but people are born all the time. So every month includes “Happy Birthday,” done in twelve different genres. Anyone in the audience whose birthday falls in that month is invited to stand. Genres might include classical, march, swing, bluegrass, blues, waltz, video game, mariachi, 50s, Celtic, tango, calypso, polka, guitar ballad…

Here are a few songs for each month to get you started.

January. Jingle Bells/It’s a Marshmallow World/Let it Snow/Auld Lang Syne

February. I Heart You/When I Fall in Love/Won’t You Be My Valentine

March. St. Patrick’s Jiggle/Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Dance of the Irish

April. Billy Bunny/Easter Bonnet/April Showers/April Love

May. A Child’s Song of Love/M-O-T-H-E-R/flower songs/vet-honoring songs…

June. You’re a Grand Old Flag/wedding songs…

July. Patriotic songs/In the Good Old Summertime

August. By the Sea, By the Sea/Summertime/School Days

September. The Falling Leaves/autumn songs/Whistle While You Work

October. Funeral March of a Marionette/Halloween songs/Spunky Spooks

November. Thanksgiving songs/Over the River and Through the Woods/autumn and harvest songs…

December. Carol of the Bells/Believe (from Polar Express)/Where Are You, Christmas? (from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas)/Christmas songs/ Hanukkah songs…

Students can dress for the month they represent. You might create props or cardboard sets. For example, August could have a beach umbrella, beach towel, pail and plastic shovel, with a painted backdrop of ocean and sand. Students are responsible to set up for each other. To keep it running tight time-wise, one student could introduce the next, operating as emcee, while a couple remove props from the previous student, and others follow with the next props.

Hold a tech rehearsal to get the details/timing worked out.

My sister has colorful posters carried out for each month and placed on an easel.

She uses this recital format every other year, alternating with a strictly Christmas theme. There is so much music to choose from!

Do you have other ideas for a “Holiday and Seasons” recital? MTH readers would love to hear them!

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composing holiday activity with music students

I didn’t warn my students they’d be composing. I was pretty sure they’d feel intimidated, so I simply asked them for favorite holiday phrases. When they asked why, I said, “You’ll see.” And once they heard the glimmer of a secret, they were hooked.

Here’s what we did.

STEP 1

“Think of one or two short holiday phrases .” (Three or four phrases for older students.)

“What’s a holiday phrase?”

“A word or group of words you hear around Christmastime. It could even be words to a song.”

Some might want an example, such as “Merry Christmas!” Or show them this.  I heard “Ho, ho, ho!” “Open up the presents.” “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” In addition, one came up with “Hark! How the jingle bells rock!” Another said, “Elf on the shelf.”

This exercise provided both rhythm and lyrics for the composing activity. But it only took about five minutes.

STEP 2

We listed the phrases and spoke them in rhythm one after the other. We switched the order until they liked the flow. Then I had them tap and clap the rhythms. If they gave too long a phrase, I said “We need it shorter.” Or if the first phrase was in three but the next in four, “Try another.”

This took five minutes or under.

STEP 3

The melody of their composing came next.

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music-1707842_640

“But Miss Robin, I love all my songs. I can’t pick!” Yep, I have students who simply cannot choose only one favorite for their recital. When this happens, I might show them ways to make a medley.

I tell them to choose two or three songs. If they are older, more experienced students, they may choose more.

How to choose?

  • By theme: Christmas or other holiday; seasons; animal songs; love songs, etc.
  • By genre: Pop; rock; blues; country; folk; classical, etc.
  • By similarities in tempo, key signature, style or patterns, even in random selections. For example, “Popcorn” by Hot Butter from the ‘70s could be paired with Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mtn King” because they are both staccato and in a minor mode. For Billboard Top 20 medley hits, go here.

Next decide the order of songs in the medley. The student should play them through. Switch the order and try again. Does one seem to flow better into another?

Think about creating interest/avoiding boredom. Do the songs all sound the same? Try these ideas:

  • add another piece with a contrasting tempo. Include one in the relative minor key, or go from D to D minor.
  • Make a surprise in the medley by turning a ballad into an upbeat song or a fast piece into a slow song. Change from 3/4 to 4/4.
  • Remember that modulating up in pitch raises the energy and intensity. Modulating down in pitch tends to calm. But beware—it could also be anticlimactic!

Will songs flow easily into one another, or do they need a transition? Here are ways to tie songs together.

  • The chorus of one song might serve as transition between each.
  • The intro might work as a transition.
  • Can the student create his/her own brief transition?
  • Your student might need to try different combinations of verse, chorus and bridge of each song until the medley is cohesive.

Finally, make sure the medley isn’t too long. Students with many favorites might try to fit too many in. Keep the audience in mind. Make the ending special. Can the intro be repeated as an ending? Can your student place the most exciting piece last?

A medley can allow students to include more of their favorite songs. It can showcase their versatility and make performances even more exciting. They will have learned a skill they can use in the future (for graduations, weddings…)—to make a medley!

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