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Planning your Holiday Concert

Musicplay Holiday Newsletter – Dec. 2003

As many of you are finishing preparations for your holiday concert, it seems like a good time to give you some ideas for making that holiday concert FUN instead of just STRESS!

Planning and Delegating Responsibility: At a staff meeting early in the fall, discuss how the holiday concert will be handled. Administration should make it clear to staff that this is a school event – not the music teachers big show. All staff should be expected to help with planning, and all should be expected to attend. A coordinator for the concert is required – usually the music teacher – , but if the school is supportive, the music teacher in the school isn’t burdened with doing everything. The following tasks could be delegated:

Backdrop: One teacher or parent can take responsibility for preparing and putting up the backdrop. Simple backdrops are good. You can purchase white tarps from Home Depot. If you make your backdrop somewhat generic, you can recycle them. We painted “Happy Holidays” on half of the white tarp and stapled garland around the edges. The garland probably won’t last forever, be we don’t have to redo the sign each year. If you don’t want the same backdrop every year, create 3-4 different ones and cycle them through. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each year!

Sound System: One teacher or parent is responsible for locating a good quality sound system, with 4 mikes: 2 for the choir, and at least 2 for soloists. If the school doesn’t have a good sound system, try renting one. If you’re in a rural location without rentals, a local dance band may have a PA system they would loan you or rent to you. Have a backup plan! Borrow a karaoke machine to have on stage so you have a backup in case your sound system crashes in the middle of your concert.

Risers: One teacher or parent should be responsible for borrowing and/or setting up risers.

Stage Helpers: A couple of stage hands for the night of the concert should be found. There is always something that needs to be adjusted, and the concert co-ordinator doesn’t have enough hands to do it all. I often have a few responsible fifth graders become my stage hands. Some of the kids that really don’t like speaking parts, make great stage helpers! The stage helpers should remember to bring some emergency supplies in case of accidents:

* paper towels (vomit, leaky bladders)

* big garbage can, big garbage bags

* clorox wipes, rubber gloves (vomit)

* broom and dustpan (broken flashlight candles)

  • kleenex (bleeding noses, runny noses)

Scene Rehearsal: Even when there is a music specialist every classroom teacher should provide extra rehearsal time for their own classes. The music specialist can make a CD of the class’s song or a YouTube video, for rehearsal purposes so the classroom teachers can help. (Themes & Variations Christmas programs allow you to do this – please check copyright regulations on other publications before copying anything!)

Classroom teachers can use music or phys-ed time to rehearse songs and dances. When they have them learned, bring in the concert coordinator to help with entrances, exits and staging. Ask all staff members to prepare the children for the “what if’s” that can happen. If you are the music specialist, allow time to go through this with all children who will be in the concert.

* “What if – you have to puke?” (Get to the garbage can at the side of the stage if you can!)

* “What if – you have to go the bathroom?” (Use bathroom before show. Don’t drink pop!)

  • “What if – you feel woozy?” (If you feel woozy when on stage, just sit down and put your head between your knees.) At least they won’t fall off the top riser!

Costumes: Meet with the concert co-ordinator to plan costumes for each group. The co-ordinator or the classroom teacher should determine determine what costumes and props are needed. Decide who will be sending notes home to parents with details of what their child should wear. Keep it simple! The easier the better. Sometimes just a hat will give the class the look you want.

Program: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for printing the program and for handing it out at the door (or choosing students to do this) at the actual concert.

Publicity: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for sending notes home giving the date, time and location of the concert.

Supervision Backstage: The concert coordinator will be in the wings, coordinating entrances and exits. Two teachers will be needed backstage to ensure that groups are ready to go on, on cue. All classroom teachers will be needed to supervise their children off stage. This is probably going to be the toughest hour of the school year. I had 90 children backstage one year. I played Concentration, Stella Ella Olla, and Topnotcher with them and managed to have fun while we waited. Directions for those 3 games are in “Singing Games Children Love” Volume 1 and 2, published by Themes & Variations. Videos don’t work well, unless you have a very large screen and a loud sound system. Taking children back to their own classroom and playing board games seems to be a good solution also.

Concert Setup: The concert coordinator will need some release time from regular classes to organize the setup of the stage area. Be sure to ask in your newsletter for parent volunteers to help with this. The backdrop needs to be put up, and all student art work that you can display, should be put up. A final check needs to be made that all props are ready to be taken on stage from the wings. There are 2 things that parents hate at a Christmas concert – not being able to see their child, and not being able to hear what is being said and sung. Check and double check your sound system, and use risers so your students are all seen!

Photos/Videotaping: Ask a staff member to find a parent volunteer to take photos and videotape the concert. You might have a staff member that takes great photos and give her the job.

Cleanup: One year I forgot to delegate a clean up crew, so guess who ended up cleaning up? Don’t forget to have teachers and parents who are responsible for taking down the backdrop and art work, loading instruments and props into vans, and returning them to school or to classrooms.

Concert Co-ordinator: You still need a concert co-ordinator to bring the whole show together. Email makes communication with the staff a lot easier than it use to be, so use it frequently so that all staff knows what is going on. This is the co-ordinators checklist:

Concert Date: ____________________________________________

Location: ____________________________________________

Time: ________________________

Grades Involved: _________________________________

Staff Member in Charge of: Verified/Done:

Backdrop: ____________________________________________ ____________

Sound System: ____________________________________________ ____________

Risers: ____________________________________________ ____________

Stage Helpers: ____________________________________________ ____________

Costumes: ____________________________________________ ____________

Program: ____________________________________________ ____________

Publicity/Notes to Parents: ____________________________________________

Supervision Backstage: ____________________________________________

Concert Setup: ____________________________________________ ____________

Photos/Videotaping: ____________________________________________

Cleanup: ____________________________________________ ____________

Concert Etiquette: Sometimes parents need a little education about concert etiquette. This may be especially true in schools where parents rarely attend concerts. Talking during performances, leaving the concert early, having CEL phone conversations are not infrequent complaints about parents in school concerts. To help to educate your parents, you might consider having a couple of students or the first class on stage read a poem at the beginning of the concert.

Concert Etiquette Rap    by Denise Gagne and Denese Odgaard

Welcome to our concert – we’re really glad you came.                                                                    We will listen carefully – we hope you do the same.

Some of us are really small – our voices aren’t too strong.                                                                If you’re really quiet – you’ll still hear – you won’t go wrong.

We have a few suggestions to make this fun for all.                                                                     Please turn your CEL phones off so they don’t ring inside the hall.

If you really have to go, please leave when there’s applause.                                                      You may enter once again – when there is a pause.

Save the hoots and hollers for when you’re at the game.                                                              When you’re at a concert, it isn’t quite the same.

If your baby’s crying and it’s really, really loud,                                                                             Please take them out until they’re calm – this time it is allowed!

We hope that you will stay and watch until the very end.                                                                We really will appreciate this – our thanks to you we’ll send!

When the concert gets closer, the stress level in the school rises. Remember who we’re doing the concert for – it’s all about giving the children a chance to perform! Ask someone in their 20’s what they remember from the second grade. The chances are really good that they’ll remember doing a Christmas concert. This is an event they will remember for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter if the choir on the risers is a little off centre or if one child sings the wrong words – what matters is that it’s a positive experience for every child.

Preschool Music Classes

I’ve been working on a preschool curriculum this year, combining what I think are the strengths of John Feirabend’s First Steps, and the curriculums that use instruments more extensively – Lynn Kleiner, Music Together, Kindermusik.  My hope is that Musicplay Preschool will be an easy to follow curriculum that will encourage students to enjoy singing, listening, playing instruments, moving, and creating.  I’ve spent the past 2 years with the preschool students in my grandsons preschool.  The first time I visited, they introduced me as Hunter’s grandma, and so for two years I’ve been Grandma D to 24 three, four and five year olds in the preschool.

This week’s lesson was mostly review.  Preschoolers need lots of repetition!  John Feirabend says you should do every activity four times in at least four lessons.  I find that can be a bit of overkill, but I do try to repeat activities 2-3 times.  We start our lessons with a beat chant, accompanied by a different instrument every week.

Beat, beat, feel the beat.  Say hello to those you meet.  I say,  “Hello Hunter” and the students echo me.  I use different vocal qualities:  low/high, quiet/loud, fast/slow and I use melodic echo patterns as well.  We discuss the instrument that I’ve played.  What is it made out of?  How does it make it’s sound?

This week when I got into the classroom, the kids were all wearing pyjamas, sitting in the dark and holding flashlights.  They were pretty wired because it was panama day, so I changed the order of the lesson and did “Sleepy Bunnies” first.  They love this song – it’s in Primary Dances and Singing Games.  http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/productinfo.aspx?productid=PD  Doing the game first got the wiggles out and they were ready for the rest of the lesson.

Fingerplays and simple action songs are very important for this age group.  They are engaging, and help to focus the students.  They help students to develop vocabulary and comprehension, as the actions often describe the meaning of the words.  They also get children used to watching the teacher – a great skill to have when they join choir or band later on.

This week we reviewed “Little Rabbit Foo Foo” with no accompaniment.  (just our voices)  On “Down came the good fairy” I really exaggerate the “downward” sound with my voice – helps them develop flexibility in their voices.  If we review the song next week, it would be fun to add some instruments as sound effects.  A glissando on a glockenspiel on “Down came the good fairy” would be magical.  We could shake egg shakers to the beat while we sing.  On “Boppin’ them on the head” a drum or woodblock could be added.

We also reviewed John the Rabbit.  I pretended to be the farmer that was mad that a rabbit was hopping in his garden and eating his cabbage.  The children were the “rabbits.”  Each time they sang “Yes, ma’am” they took one hop towards me.  At the end of the song the “rabbits” wiggle their tales back to back with another “rabbit” and then the farmer shoos them out of the garden.  They squealed with laughter as they hopped back.  Then I had them choose some new vegetables to eat out of the garden.  I’m going to make some picture cards of vegetables to use next week, and at the end of the song we might chant the names of the vegetables that the rabbit ate:  eg.  Lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, corn.  We could sing the song with instruments as well – one instrument for “yes ma’am” and a different instrument for the calls.

We reviewed “Bunny Boogie” from Sing and Play on Special Days.  We also reviewed One Green Jelly Bean from Movement Songs Children Love.

Our listening selection was “Hens and Roosters” from Carnival of the Animals.  I have a great visual that I printed from the Listening Kit 1 Digital Resources.  They pretended to be little chicks pecking at the grain.  They were scared of the big rooster who was trying to steal their grain.

I’m preparing them for the Rain Rain Story App so taught them Rain Rain go Away.  We made up a new verse – all the children want to play.  I brought out finger cymbals and we accompanied the song with finger cymbals.  I don’t have 24 pairs, so gave each child 1 cymbal and a small wooden mallet.  It’s easier to play like this and still sounds beautiful.  This was our simple song, and it’s one that I expect all the children will be able to sing with enough repetition.  More about the app in the next post.

We didn’t have time to give out egg shakers, but I wanted to review the Shakin’ eggs poem, so I played and said the poem.

Then, goodbye song and class was done.

Developing the Child’s Singing Voice

 Developing the Child’s Singing Voice     I recently read this question on a music teachers facebook page:  I’m teaching grade 1 and 2 music. I had 2 of my classes for the first time today and did some call and response tone-matching activities. I was shocked to find that 75% of the students could not sing in their head voice. At least 40% of those students couldn’t reproduce so-mi in a singing voice at all! Any ideas on where I start to help these students develop singing/head voices?  In this newsletter, I’ve got some suggestions for warmups, vocalizes and activities to get your kids matching pitch.

Start with the speaking voice and work on high and low sounds.

Alphabet Echo:  Say the letters of the alphabet in lots of different voices – high, low, silly, scary, monster, and have the kids echo each letter or group of letters.  (A or A B C) It’s a fun warmup and for your preK and kindergarten students will reinforce letter recognition.

Vocalise:  Do lots of vocalises with them.  I bought a toy fire engine and play the siren for the kids and have them make siren sounds.  I’ve found one Fire Engine storybook, and would welcome suggestions of fire engine stories that you’ve found!

I love the slide whistle! Have them echo the sounds that you make on a slide whistle.  Do this with your entire group, and then try it with individual students.  In John Feirabend’s research, he’s found that children need opportunities to sing alone as well as with the group.

Make vocal exploration cards, or have your students make them,  and have kids sing the shapes on oo, ah, bbb.   We’ve put some vocal exploration cards on www.musicplay.ca in the Free Downloads section.  If you want printed versions of these cards, they’ll be available soon.  (Sometimes buying them printed is cheaper than getting them printed in color yourself)

Say poems in low and high voices – for example:

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?

high voice – I’ve been to London to visit the Queen

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat what did you there?

High voice – I frightened a little mouse under a chair.

Dramatize the poem!

Have the kids create ostinatos to chant with the poem, and have them chant in low voices, then high voices –

For example:

meow, meow, kitty says meow

Grandma’s Glasses Source: Musicplay K and 1

High Voice – These are Grandma’s glasses. This is Grandma’s hat.   This is the way she folds her hands and puts them in her lap.

Low Voice – These are Grandpa’s glasses. This is Grandpa’s hat.  This is the way he folds his hands, and then he takes a nap.

I use stories to get kids using different voices.  Retell the story of the three bears, and use low voices for Papa Bear, a middle voice for Mama Bear and a high voice for Baby Bear.  Have the kids say all the spoken parts with you.  “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Papa Bear.  (low voice)

The Three Bears in Musicplay 1, The Billy Goats Gruff in Musicplay for Kindergarten, and The Three Little Pigs in Musicplay 3 are all good for this activity.

The absolute favorite low-middle-high activity is the

Three Little Monkeys poem.

Three little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The low monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

Two little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The middle monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

One little monkeys swinging from a tree   Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The high monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

“Missed me, missed me – now you gotta kiss me!”

I have great puppets to use with this poem, and you can find them at www.musicplay.ca – search for puppets.

Other songs/poems to use for high/middle/low practice:

Eensy Weensy Spider – Great Big Spider, Teeny Tiny Spider (in Musicplay 1 and Action Songs 1)

Boom Chicka Boom in Musicplay 5 is a good chant to use with your older students.

Leader:                                                      Class echoes:

Boom chicka boom                                      echo Boom chicka boom

Boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom  echo

All right?                                                      All right?

Oh Yeah!                                                      Oh Yeah!

One more time                                              One more time

Little bit louder                                              Little bit louder

Create ostinato patterns with body percussion to accompany the chant.  For example:  Pat left, pat right, clap, snap

 

After the chant activities do lots of echo singing. Echo so-mi, la-so-mi, so-mi-do, so-fa-mi-re-do patterns.

Do 3-4 minutes of these warmups every time you see them and you’ll start to build some flexibility in their voices.

Give them 5 or 6 classes of this and you’ll see a big improvement!

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear

I saw Sister Lorna Zemke at TMEA and she had a really cute idea to get kids using high and low voices using a mouse and a bear puppet having conversations.  Sometimes I got blank when I’m trying to make something up, so I decided to write a story that would use the high and low voices.    This should give the primary teacher some conversation ideas to use between Squeaky and Brown Bear.  Folkmanis Puppets has wonderful bear and mouse puppets – enjoy the idea!

Squeaky and Brown Bear

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear lived in a cave in the forest. Every day Squeaky would wake up first and ask Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.   It’s a sunny summer day.

Brown Bear would wake up, and stretch and he’d say, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny summer day.”

And off they’d go into the forest.  Brown Bear would eat lots and lots of berries and Squeaky would nibble on seeds that they found in the forest.  They’d play outside all day.  They played hide and go seek.  Squeaky was very hard to find.  Brown Bear was so big, that he was easy to see!   They played tag.  Brown Bear was much bigger, but Squeaky could run very fast.  Sometimes they’d go for a long walk to the stream and Brown Bear would catch fish.  They played all summer.

Then fall came.  They still played every day, but Brown Bear was getting so fat that he couldn’t run as fast.  When winter came, Brown Bear got very tired, and just wanted to sleep all day.  Squeaky woke up in the morning and listened to Brown Bear snoring.

He loudly asked Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”   Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself.  He colored pictures and hung them all over the cave.

The next morning, he woke up and heard Brown Bear snoring.  Again he asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself again.   Every day Squeaky would ask if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.  And every day Brown Bear would open one eye and answer, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Squeaky made letters and food and animals out of playdough.   Squeaky built houses out of blocks.  He played with cars and trucks.  He played house.  Finally, spring came.  One day when Squeaky woke up, Brown Bear wasn’t snoring.  He was already awake.  Squeaky asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.  

Brown Bear opened both his eyes, yawned and had a big stretch.   In a very tired voice he answered, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.”   So off the two friends went into the forest to play.

Holiday Concert Scripts Wanted

Holiday concerts are just around the corner. What do you have planned for your Holiday concert? Do you put on a full musical or do you choose songs that you, the students and the parents love and perform them, maybe based around a theme. Some of the themes I’ve used have included:

  • Holiday Lights
  • Christmas Cards and Greetings
  • Christmas is my Favorite Time of Year

Do you write your own scripts for your holiday concert?

Thanks to all who’ve sent scripts! I’d love to have more on a variety of themes to put together a collection of teacher written scripts. Scripts must be original, and can not have been submitted elsewhere, including MK8 listserv. Teachers will be paid if scripts are used, and will receive free copies of the script collection.

Scripts can be sent to:

Themes & Variations

Canadian Office
#2-4664 Riverside Drive
Red Deer, Alberta T4N 6Y5

US Office
PO Box 309
Danville, WA, 99121

Phone/Fax 1-888-562-4647 (real people answer our phones!)

Email