I listened to Help I Fall, using a Sibelius file which I had prepared one week prior to the session. This was useful because in the Sibelius software you can highlight a part, then by pressing the space bar or clicking you can have the selected part played to you. However you have to be careful because it interprets a minim as two consecutive notes. So counting was needed both during the learning of the score and the teaching of the piece.
Historical context was given prior to the warm up and teaching of the piece. The example of a table book, approved by Trinity College Dublin for this purpose, was shown along with individual parts for Help, I Fall and the part plaques I made myself. This illustrated how the English Madrigal used to be sung. The strategy there was to gain more interest in the madrigal. I felt this was the most enjoyable part of the session for me but also for the participants who were fully engaged, showing interest and some asking questions.
I began the singing with a round, Tallis’s Canon, used to show imitation. This was transposed down a whole tone – from G major to F major - to make it more accessible to the participants. I began this exercise by teaching the round in unison to the choir, then they were divided in 3 groups to illustrate staggered entries, which is one of the key features of madrigals. This was successfully executed.
For the other key feature being taught, word painting, I had used Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The exercise involved a small passage just before the chorus of this work: ‘It goes like this, the 4th the 5th, the minor fall, the major lift. This was sung and played to the choir to demonstrate how the music illustrates the words. This was compared directly to ‘Help, I Fall’ and ‘betrayed’.
Then I went on to teach a 14 bar section of Help, I Fall. First of all I played it on my computer with a pair of speakers, to let participants hear what the selected 14 bars sounded like, prior to teaching from scores. I divided those 14 bars into 3 sections of the same length for all voice parts, a strategy suggested by Barbara Brinson in Choral Music Methods and Materials. Then I put it together very gradually.
Due to the earlier loss of time I wasn’t able to go into clear diction with the participants. Instead I used the syllable ‘la’ for each voice part. Nevertheless, an explanation of the lyrics meaning was given.
Informal reactions to the session were that of enjoyment and satisfaction. I was invited to come back and teach them the whole work. I indicated that I could possibly undertake this in the summer but in the mean time they have the mp3 files and scores. I was happy that I first gave the choir the context, then the two teaching elements and the full 14 bars as planned.