Academy of Sacred Music Choral Programme
Junior Class (For children aged 5 – 8 years)
This overall programme begins with a course for the very young, centred on the child- development method espoused by the composer Zoltan Kodaly.
Kodaly (1882 – 1967) was a Hungarian composer and educator who believed that everyone was born with the ability for music. Appalled at the level of musical illiteracy in his country in the early 1900s, Kodaly made it his mission in life to change the way music was being taught in schools. Today, over a century later, almost all Hungarians can sing and play an instrument.
The subject matter of this course is arranged according to how the young child develops musically at various stages of growth, with the primary teaching tools being folk songs and musical games. There are four levels to this course:
- Level 1
- The nurturing of the young singer’s ‘ear’ begins as they learn how to distinguish between fast and slow tempos, simple rhythms and pitches. As most young children cannot immediately discriminate between tones and semi-tones, Kodaly has put in place a methodology that is primarily focused on the pentatonic scale, rather than the more familiar diatonic scale. Therefore, at this stage, singers learn and memorise a series of pentatonic songs based on well-known folksongs and rhymes.
- Level 2
- As well as introducing more songs and rhymes, the young singer develops the ‘ear’ further by participation in musical games, designed to expand melody and rhythmic recognition. Moreover, singers learn the solfege syllables (do, re, mi etc.) and corresponding hand signs, together with rhythm syllables and sticks, all of which provide a gateway to music theory.
- Level 3
- Young singers move on from unison singing only, to some simple two-part Canons, the precursor to choral part-singing. Additionally, singers begin to recognise and notate melodies and rhythms using the 5 line staff and rhythm sticks. Further development of solfege syllables and hand signs also occurs at this stage, as well as the continued building up of song repertoire.
- Level 4
- Singers are introduced to the diatonic scale and semi-tones, and 2/4, ¾ and 4/4 time signatures. They also learn to sing the diatonic scale using solfege syllables and rhythm sticks, as well as how to notate it on the staff. The practice of sight reading can now form an integral part of ‘ear’ development, together with some rhythmic and melodic improvisations.
For younger children (aged 5 & 6) the course will take approx. three years to complete; for older children (aged 7 & 8) the course can be completed in two years.
Intermediate Course (8 – 11 years)
After the completion of the Kodaly Course, choristers move onto a more subject-logic based programme, covering four essential areas:
(1) Students have the opportunity to rehearse with the Academy Choir and to participate in selected performances;
(2) Liturgical Music – students develop a thorough awareness of the Christian Calendar’s most important seasons by rehearsing and performing liturgical music regularly featured during Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter;
(3) Theory of Music Classes (Grades 1-3) – to ensure that all choristers are fully supported in their efforts to become well-rounded singers and musicians;
(4) Regular Individual Lessons – to enhance aural training and assist with the learning of repertoire.
Choir of the Academy of Sacred Music (12 – 21 years)
Finally, the young chorister will graduate into the Choir of the Academy of Sacred Music, which is mainly for young people, (although some older and more experienced choristers also participate in this performing choir). At this stage, the chorister will be introduced to some of the greatest choral works to emerge from the Renaissance period, providing a solid foundation for the performance of the most difficult, complex and inspiring choral works from all musical periods.
This Programme will provide excellent training in the discipline of choral singing with its emphasis on beauty, purity and clarity of tone, awakening a deeper and more internalised musicality, with free flowing, natural melodies and counter melodies that are typical of the period.
Given the close association between prayer, and the spiritual and meditative qualities of Renaissance choral works, the experience will be of holistic benefit to young singers, raising their voices, hearts, minds and souls heavenward. Choristers will learn to work together in groups of 4, 5 and 6 voices, with particular emphasis on the role of each individual voice in creating and carrying a work.
This will be complemented by the provision of Individual Singing Lessons, which will provide a strong technical foundation for each Chorister. Based on the Marchesi vocal methodology (Bel Canto), the lessons will focus on:
- Understanding the physiology of singing;
- Breathing technique;
- Register and vocal placing;
- Blending of register;
- Agility of the voice.
Students will also be able to participate in:
- Graded singing examinations, accredited by Trinity/Guildhall;
- Music Theory classes (Grades 1 – 8);