iPad and a Christmas Singalong for Seniors

At this time of year, care homes, lunch clubs and community groups often want to have a a good singalong. All too often, though, they don’t have anyone with sufficient confidence to lead one and provide instrumental support. That was the obstacle encountered by the ladies who put on tea parties for the senior members of our parish. For some reason, all those they usually call upon were unavailable and I was asked, at the last minute, to step in. My solution was a simple one that’s available to many carers, so I thought I’d share it here.

We don’t have a piano in the church hall at the moment and, if we did, I would have been reluctant to use it. I know from experience that making eye contact with members of a group and singing, even unaccompanied, engenders confidence and involvement far in excess of anything possible when dividing my attention between direct communication and providing an accompaniment. In the past, when lacking an accompanist, I have kept myself free to facilitate by providing accompaniments through a computer system running professional music software. That was some years ago, though, and the technology has all changed, with the result that many of the Christmas music files don’t play back correctly on my current software and equipment. The old stuff is buried, deep in the garage, underneath the remnants of my old kitchen! Then, “Yippee!!!” – the iPad came to the rescue.

 

 

For a singalong, it’s important to be able to quickly adjust the speed and pitch of the music to suit the assembly. On the iPad I used the very simple Jam Player app to do this. The app also allowed me to move very quickly between pieces, which is another important consideration in this context. The accompaniments were nearly all  my own musical arrangements but a less experienced musician could use music downloaded from iTunes or other online sources. Jam Player will load the music from the Music folder into which the iPad automatically saves downloaded music files. My only quibble with this was that the first playback started automatically as soon as the file loaded, so I had to get in quickly and click “Stop”, so that music started at my convenience, not that of the iPad! That isn’t too big a deal, though, in an informal gathering.

I have been looking, without success,  for  equally simple audio playback with pitch and speed options for PC and Android. There are, though, several players for both operating systems and many non-specialists will be familiar with one or more of them and use them to play their own music collections. Some like  Microsoft’s Media Player will allow the user to edit the speed but the controls aren’t all on one screen like Jam Player’s simple knobs. Slightly more tech-savvy folk may be happy to use a separate app like “Amazing Slowdowner” for editing  files prior to use.

On the PC, Full Pitcher’s “MIDIgrid” and “GridPlay” software provides a very simple playback facility for midifiles, where numerous tracks can be presented on a single screen, ready for playback in quick succession. The end-user doesn’t have to know anything about MIDI or music to use this software but can just “click and play”.

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Fireworks – A Round for Bonfire Night

fireworks-114-edit

The lyrics of this piece also work well as a spoken round and repeated phrases. We can play with words like “fizzling”, “spitting”, “whoosh”, “shoots” to create sound pictures, so even non-singers can get creative with this one!

This can be sung in unison or as a round. Place lots of emphasis on the consonants of the words, creating vocal sound effects. Selected words and phrases can be used as a repeated accompaniment. Create your own ‘firework-display’ by singing or reciting sections, in your own sequences or combinations.

Fireworks

Bonfire Night is lots of fun,
Launching fresh fireworks one by one.
Fizzling sparklers’ silver light,
Spitting, spinning Catherine Wheels, spirals bright!
Whoosh, bang! Rocket shoots up high.
Then a shower of fiery rain falls from the sky.
Splutter, splutter, whizza, boom! Up into the sky
Shoots another rocket,  speeding high, so high!
© Audrey Podmore, 2003

Click Here to listen to the audio and download melody and lyrics of this, and other seasonal songs, from the Autumn Fun page

The Joy of a Community Musical

I spent yesterday at an event that clearly underlined how rewarding and joyful inclusive music-making can be! I arrived at 10.15 for a 10.30 start on a workshop preparation of ‘The Haslemere Highwayman’ to find that some early birds were already eagerly getting the feel of the perfoming space in the St. Bartholomew’s Church. A core team from the cast, which aged from 3-87 and included children from the primary school, members of the church choir and local talent from other choirs and amateur dramatic societies, had done some work on learning the songs and principal roles. At the designated time, they would be joined by anyone who cared to come in and take part.

The daunting task of rehearsing this motley crew for a Haslemere Festival performance in the evening fell to composer Stella Coussell and musical director Clive Osgood, assisted with props and slick stage management by Zoë Clarke. Except that this talented trio didn’t appear to be in the least daunted! There were lots of songs with catchy tunes and lyrics, as well as more challenging music for experienced singers. At the evening performance, there was also plenty of opportunity for audience participation, with Zoë holding up large cue cards.Stella drew great performances from the younger cast members, who rehearsed all day with amazing enthusiasm and concentration, tribute to the engaging quality of both her writing and direction!

The story goes that the the Haslemere Rector in the 1790s was also a highwayman: Well, a pile of brass tags from stolen mail sacks were found in the house of Rector, James Fielding, so he must have been! After much research, composer and librettist, Stella Coussell, deftly wove this tale together with others from local history and legend to create an exciting and atmospheric storyline. This embraced, amongst other things, the Great Storm of 1795, which was recreated by Clive Osgood on the organ, with enthusiastic sound effects from the audience. Everyone was challenged and successful, the ‘goodies’ in the story triumphed and it had a romantic ending – what more could one ask? Thanks, Stella, for a great day!

Family and Group Music Making

 

Activities shared by the whole family are the stuff of precious memories. And creative activities, in particular, are a potent way to build a strong family or group identity. At the present time, there is an ever-growing awareness amongst parents and educators of the many extra-musical benefits of children’s involvement in music. Sadly, though, the importance of the social milieu in which music is experienced is usually overlooked. Unless children observe that their parents and teachers are also emotionally involved with the music and value it themselves, only the most dedicated will sustain motivation. It isn’t necessary for adults to be skilled or knowledgeable musicians to enthuse youngsters, only to join them on their musical journey.

Computers have often been blamed for causing fragmentation in family life and encouraging children to spend long periods in isolation. But computers don’t have to be isolating. Today, there are many interactive applications that can simultaneously engage the interest of users with very different levels of knowledge and skill.

On The Full Pitcher website, we make suggestions for using our online music scores as the focus of activities shared by groups of mixed age and ability. The same principle is applied in our GridPlay software. One, of many examples, is the arrangement, ‘One Man Went to Mow’, on the Summer Music page. In this, the written parts are for experienced instrumentalists. However, the very simple tune of the song can be substituted for any of these parts. It is an easy song to sing and there are suggestions for involving a very young, or disabled child.

Often, lyrics and playback are available online for ensemble arrangements. When one or more members of the group plays an instrument the parts can be downloaded at very modest cost and they can play along with the online track. Our tuneful downloads for beginners on flute, clarinet, recorder, violin and cello have very simple piano accompaniments so that elementary pianists can enjoy ensemble playing from an early stage. Those parents who wish they hadn’t given up on the piano may find these arrangements a way back in!

Most music is flexibly arranged, with optional parts suitable for beginners and for the basic instruments most likely to be available. Suggestions are often made about ‘how to improvise with this piece’. Sometimes a lot of mystique surrounds the improvisation of music and people often think it requires lots of skills they couldn’t hope to have! In truth, it is a very natural thing to do. We improvise all the time in various aspects of our daily lives and music is, really no different. It has been said that all we need to improvise is ‘the courage to move from one note to the next’. What better way is there to develop the confidence and self-trust, necessary to explore,  than just ‘having a go’ and learning to improvise together in the accepting and sharing environment of the family circle?

Families with disabled members should be aware of our custom arrange & print service. We are very happy to supply custom-arranged prints to meet the needs of would-be musicians with disabilities that prevent the playing of conventional instruments, or who must play them in unconventional ways. Of course, a person doesn’t need to be disabled to play an unusual instrument!

We want our resources to be accessible for all so, if you need something different, please ask. If you simply want the music transposed to a different key, we will usually request that you purchase the standard version and then we will email you a custom part free of charge. If you want something more complicated like an arrangement for an Allcomers orchestra, we will charge a modest fee.

These are some of the places on our website to mine for family-friendly materials:

Kids’ Pages
Creative activities for parents and teachers to share with children age 3-7 (Level 1) and 8+ (level 2).

Seasonal Fun
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Christmas pages have lyrics, audio and melody parts for a seasonal selection of our Miscellaneous Scores, together with activities to share with family, friends or classmates. Downloads of ensemble arrangements can be purchased from the Miscellaneous page.

Music for Beginners
Our music downloads for beginners on flute, recorder, clarinet, violin and cello have very simple, but satisfying, piano accompaniments to enable those with elementary piano-playing skills to join the beginner in an ensemble experience, right from the start. These could be a way back in for those parents who regret abandoning the piano as teenagers, as so many do!

Miscellaneous Scores
On this page full ensemble arrangements of many pieces which feature on Kids Pages and Seasonal Fun pages will be found, as well as any other downloads for which we do not have a dedicated page.

 

Our family-friendly software:

GridPlay: Creative Explorations Level
Activities to share with younger children. No previous musical knowledge is required to start exploring. the included ebook has lots of ideas with which to get started.

GridPlay: Creative Explorations Level 2

Explore and improvise, right away. even if you do not play an instrument or read music. These grids have been used from age 8-Adult. The included ebook contains words and music for many songs, in addition to copious activity suggestions.

GridPlay for Teachers/Carers
Songs and activities to make music with friends and family, however severely disabled

 

 

New Chidren’s Music Activity Page

The latest addition to our ‘Kids’ Pages’ of creative approach music activities is a traditional 3-part round. Words and music are given for both C and Bb instruments, with suggestions for learning and performing the song. A jukebox presents audio files for unison and 3-part versions and each section repeated as an ostinato.  It is hoped that children will also create their own ostinato accompaniments. Readers of my earlier post on Singing Rounds in The Classroom who downloaded the materials to which it linked may find this page a useful additional resource.

The Level 2 Kids’ Pages, of which this is an example, are directly addressed to children but, as with all our resources, we really hope that parents and teachers will explore and share music with the youngsters. We can’t overestimate the value of such shared activity!

Sing Together – A Round

Summer Songs for Family Music

Got a musical family? Then our summery songs and music activities may help you share music with family and friends during the summer break. Activities are suggested with voices and simple instruments.There’s a song to keep the children creatively engaged, improvising new lyrics, during long journeys, rounds to sing in unison or in parts,  and an arrangement of Schubert’s exhilarating “To Wander” with new lyrics. Words and melodies of all the songs can be downloaded from the “Summer Fun” page and, if you have more able instrumentalists in the family circle, full ensemble parts can be purchased from the “Miscellaneous Music” page. We are in the process of changing the way our music is streamed and tunes on the “Summer Fun” page now play on iPad. Lyrics can be viewed online . Please let us know if you have trouble viewing any of the files.

Schubert: To Wander  

Summer concert item with audience participation?

Looking for a real mixed ability piece to challenge able players whilst remaining accessible for all? Then this arrangement of “One Man Went to Mow” might fit the bill. It’s a flexible 4-part arrangement. The melody of the children’s song can be sung or played alongside the arrangement, so it could be included in a summer concert featuring audience participation. This and other seasonal songs can be found on our “Summer Fun” page, where melody and lyrics can be downloaded. The 4-part arrangement is available for purchase on the “Miscellaneous Music” page and can be supplied (at very low cost) with custom parts. Contact us for details.

 

Encouraging Young Pianists to Accompany

Most piano pupils live a lonely musical life compared to their friends who play other instruments. Many of the latter play with bands and orchestras from an early stage, Nowadays, instrumental teaching in schools is predominantly group-based, so there are many opportunities to play in parts. However, when it comes to solo repertoire for the early grades, the piano accompaniment  frequently demands a more experienced performer than the solo part. This leaves elementary pianists hopelessly out of their depth. When opportunities do arise, however, they provide a whole new dimension to piano-playing and are very motivating for the young student.

It is often said that ‘many accompanists are fine pianists, while few pianists are fine accompanists’. This is, no doubt, due to the isolationist way in which we educate pianists, often not exposing them to accompanying until they reach an advanced level. By that time, many amateurs will have discontinued tuition, having attained a level of skill sufficient to play the music in which they are interested.

Happily, today’s composers of music for young players are more alert to the need for manageable piano accompaniments, if we check out other sections of the music shop while browsing for new repertoire, we will find pieces to suggest to piano pupils for sharing with their friends. In my own pieces for beginners, the “Stars from the Start” books and the, downloadable, “Flutes (Recorders, Violins) Start Here” series, I have endeavoured to provide piano scores which can be played and enjoyed by elementary pianists, thus encouraging friends and families to make music together from an early stage. A little more demanding (but still fairly easy) are the accompaniments for other pieces. like those in the “Creative Flute Pack“.

There are few activities more absorbing and satisfying than playing music with one’s friends!

Interacting With Other Users

I was absolutely delighted that one user responded to the “Welcome” post saying “It’s really exciting to “hook-up” with other folks who are enabling all kinds of individuals to make music.” This is what I hope so much to facilitate through this blog and what I tried to initiate through the Full Pitcher Forums.

Ours is a large website and it occurs to me that many of you may have missed the links to the forums, which cover areas of interest identified by subscribers to the newsletter which this blog replaces. so, I have created a permanent page on the blog, “Discussions“, which explains the rationale behind the forums with a link to each one.

I hope, of course, that many more people will participate by commenting on posts, here on the blog, and on other people’s comments. When you post a comment here, your email address is not published but your comment is public. If you wish to communicate more widely with other users, you can do this by subscribing to the forums, where members can opt to send and receive private messages from other subscribers, in addition to posting publicly. There is also a ‘live-chat’  facility (limited to 3 subscribers at any one time).

I look forward to some lively discussions!

Family Music-Making With Our Resources

Activities shared by the whole family are the stuff of precious memories. And creative activities, in particular, are a potent way to build a strong family, or group, identity.

Computers have often been blamed for causing fragmentation in family life and encouraging children to spend long periods in isolation. But computers don’t have to be isolating. Today, there are many interactive applications that can simultaneously engage the interest of users with very different levels of knowledge and skill. Our GridPlay Level 1 software is a good example. This is not intended to be used by a solitary child, focused on the computer but as a shared activity in the home, playgroup or classroom, as we explain in “Using GridPlay with Young or Disabled Children

On this site, we make suggestions for using our online music scores as the focus of activities shared by groups of mixed age and ability. One, of many examples, is the arrangement, ‘One Man Went to Mow’, on the Summer Music page. In this, the written parts are for experienced instrumentalists. However, the very simple tune of the song can be substituted for any of these parts. It is an easy song to sing and there are suggestions for involving a very young, or disabled child. There are similar family-fun pages for Spring, Autumn and  Christmas seasons. See: Miscellaneous Scores.

Most of our music is flexibly arranged, with optional parts suitable for beginners and for the basic instruments most likely to be available.Experienced players and beginners can each contribute at their own level. Parents may be surprised at the amount of practice their children will put in on music used in this manner!

Suggestions are often made about ‘how to improvise with this piece’. Sometimes a lot of mystique surrounds the improvisation of music and people often think it requires lots of skills they couldn’t hope to have! In truth, it is a very natural thing to do. We do it all the time in various aspects of our daily lives and music is, really no different. It has been said that all we need to improvise is ‘the courage to move from one note to the next’. What better way is there to develop the confidence and self-trust, necessary to explore,  than learning to improvise in the accepting and sharing environment of the family circle?

Families with disabled members should be aware of our custom arrange & print service. We are very happy to supply custom-arranged prints to meet the needs of would-be musicians with disabilities that prevent the playing of conventional instruments, or who must play them in unconventional ways.

We want our family resources to be accessible for all so, if you need something different, please ask.