Leeds Virtual Movement’s rendition of Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby”
Information in this blog post has been taken from the official Kodaly Academy website. To find out more about the Kodaly Approach, please visit www.kodaly.org.uk
Kodály training develops musicianship through singing. The student engages in the most direct of musical responses without the technical demands of an instrument. This practical approach combined with a clear progression from the simple to the complex facilitates the development of excellent musicianship skills such as sight singing and keen pitch discrimination, as well as high levels of musical literacy. Kodály training is suitable for all ages and stages and can be applied to all kinds of music from classical to world music and jazz.
“Music belongs to everybody”
The educational work of Zoltán Kodály was driven by his overriding belief that “music belongs to everybody”; that active participation in music-making develops a person on all levels and that best approach is through the instrument accessible to all – the human voice.
His ideas evolved into a philosophy of music education based on the way that children learn most naturally: through singing games, fun and play. Through his vitality and research, and the work of his colleagues and students, a sequential and progressive approach to teaching music was implemented in schools throughout Hungary based on an integration of the best practices observed throughout Europe.
Kodály believed that music education should begin as early as possible, that highly trained teachers were essential, especially in the early years, and that the rhymes and songs used should be of the best quality starting with familiar children’s songs and simple mother-tongue folk songs.
The 21st century sees Kodály’s principles at the heart of music education in many countries throughout the world, adapted whilst remaining true to the core tenets of the concept. It is a complete and comprehensive approach that covers every requirement of the music curriculum – and so much more!
“A well-trained ear, a well-trained mind, a well trained heart and well-trained fingers”http://kodaly.org.uk/about-us/kodaly-approach/
This video comes from the channel L – tiz on YouTube and gives us an insight into how Kodaly can be used to teach music to a group.
Katie was our apprentice conductor for 2018/2019. It was so nice to have her in the LVM community; she has a big personality and puts a lot of herself into the music she conducts. When she left she wrote us a letter highlighting her favourite parts of the year which you can read below. It was an absolute pleasure to have her on board and we wish her all the best in the future!
Dear Leeds Vocal Movement,
I want to let you know how much I appreciated the opportunity to be your apprentice conductor last year through this wee blog post, and let you know some of my favourite things about LVM.
My favourite musical moment in LVM was conducting Northern Lights by Ola Gjello in the Christmas Concert 2018. I never saw myself as a “classical” conductor because most of my conducting experience before LVM was with popular, music theatre or a capella music. However when Caitlin asked me to choose which pieces I would like to conduct for the Christmas concert I was drawn to Northern Lights. The piece was inspired by Aurora Borealis (the northern lights) and is performed in Norwegian. Conducting this piece was difficult in terms of my conducting technique, there are several time signature changes and pauses and lots of dynamics, but by working with Caitlin in individual lessons and the choir member’s excellent musicality we pulled it off magnificently. I had lots of wonderful feedback from audience members. Northern Lights sounds like winter without sounding like Christmas and I appreciated the contrast with the other piece I conducted – Let it Snow – which sounds wonderfully like roast reindeer with a side of mistletoe.
One of the biggest highlights of being a member of Leeds Vocal Movement is the social side – I was greeted with open arms by LVM and have made life-long friends (they helped me discover ale – I’m now a big fan). There are so many interesting people to meet out there, and us millennials can feel lonely and find it difficult to meet new people and make friends, but with LVM everyone is accepted and has a place. For example: I broke my ankle in January and only missed two rehearsals because choir members helped me get in and around Leeds in my wheelchair/crutches (big shout out to Dan – you are so kind and I miss our car chats! #folkislife).
I was sad to leave LVM this year because of all the connections I had made and how much my artistry had grown and blossomed, but I got a dream job, so I moved to Essex. I am now the Learning and Participation Coordinator for a large concert hall called Saffron Hall. We have so many interesting musicians that visit, including Britten Sinfonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Sixteen just to name a few. LVM set me in good stead for full-time work, through things like: regular meetings with Rosa, having to manage my own schedule, a formal but friendly application and interview process, and learning to communicate with lots of different people. I really enjoyed my time with LVM and learning new skills from Caitlin and although I’m not conducting at the moment, I am still singing, I have a job that I love, and I’m pretty proud of myself.
Thanks for the laughs, miss you all.
I have never considered myself to be a singer, but have always enjoyed performing and being involved in music in any way I can. My first instrument is the flute, which I took to grade 8, but I’ve always felt it to be a solo instrument so I then moved to the trumpet. I took this as far as grade 3 and officially stopped lessons as a result of family circumstances, but I loved how loud the trumpet was compared to the flute. It was also my way in to the local concert bands and ignited my passion for community. I studied music at university and there I picked up the French horn. I was always eager to be involved in bands and orchestras, so when the opportunity came to start conducting I couldn’t wait! I became conductor of the Leeds University Union Music Society (LUUMS) Concert Band and studied conducting under the guidance of Eduardo Portal.
After graduating, conducting opportunities came few and far between, so when I saw the advert to conduct Leeds Vocal Movement I got an application in as soon as I could. Looking into them, they appeared to have a great community built around singing in a relaxed environment which really appealed to me. I found out after the audition that I wasn’t going to be leading the choir and that was fine by me, I’ve never considered myself to be a singer after all. Months later, I got a call asking if I wanted to try a new role for LVM as apprentice conductor.
When I first arrived, the role was very much in its infancy. There were ideas for how the role would look, but as I was to be the first to fill the role I got to find out what worked and similarly what didn’t. Since I’d never had much experience with singing, I wasn’t particularly comfortable warming up voices, so I was very glad to have more of a back seat and learn techniques from Caitlin in more of a participatory manner. The Kodaly method Caitlin uses to warm LVM up is perfect as it encourages the singers to learn the fundamentals of music theory practically. The effects of this were really noticeable when taking sectionals since it took much less time to learn new pieces towards the end of the year.
It has been a wonderful experience working with LVM and I feel I’ve really learnt a lot about rehearsing singers and a choir efficiently and effectively, and I’m glad to have learnt this in such an encouraging environment too! I got to conduct a few performances in the last concert, but I would say the most enjoyable and most rewarding part of the role was seeing the choir grow musically – it’s really encouraging as a conductor to see the musicians grow in confidence and musicianship together. It’s really helped my musicianship personally, and most importantly I now consider myself to be a singer. I am sad to be leaving this position, but strongly believe the choir is going from strength to strength.
I have always loved to sing. When I was in primary school, Friday assemblies where everyone sang together were my favourite thing. I once got moved to the front of the group while rehearsing for a school play because I was singing so enthusiastically. I jumped at the chance to join my high school choir, and at sixteen I fell in love with Glee and Gareth Malone. When I joined university I couldn’t wait to join the choir. I was really surprised to be the only non-music student there. I had joined as an “enthusiastic amateur”, the person who loves something without understanding it. I couldn’t have told you what the musical terms meant (I’m a little better now) and if you asked me to sing you a G sharp I’d have no idea (still don’t!) but it was there that I first fell in love with choral music. It was divine, passionate, emotive, and utterly moving. I loved it.
About Librarian’s Corner:
Leeds Vocal Movement loves to sing music from a wide range of genres, and my aim is to better understand what we are singing. This blog adds some context and analysis to the notes on the page, for the benefit of members and listeners alike!
Locus Iste – Anton Bruckner (1895)
Josef Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) was an Austrian composer and accomplished organist during the Romantic era. Bruckner was heavily influenced by the works of his German contemporaries, in particular Richard Wagner; however, he also studied Baroque and Renaissance composers, including J.S. Bach and Palestrina. Bruckner’s sacred works often depict this mixture of Romantic and early music influences, and his motet Locus Iste is no exception.
The influence of early music
Bruckner wrote many sacred works, including over thirty motets. Motets are defined simply as “a sacred choral piece, usually unaccompanied, in several parts”, to allow for the diverse range of pieces associated with the form. Composers between the 13th century and the present day wrote motets, but they were most common in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Typical features of Renaissance sacred works include the use of modes, Latin text, and polyphonic textures. These characteristics are found in the motets of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who was a particular influence on Bruckner’s works.
Three hundred years on, motets became popular with Romantic composers like Brahms and Bruckner, despite its progressive musical developments. The Romantic era was defined by a step away from the “rules” of earlier musical styles; composers rejected the musical “boundaries” that were prominent in the Classical era, while celebrating and emulating the composers that popularised them. This included a conscious movement towards adding emotion and meaning into compositions, through techniques like the use of dynamics, a lack of strict musical forms and variations of traditional harmonic progressions. Alongside this was the revival and adaptation of early music traditions; the Catholic Church particularly encouraged the use of polyphony and Gregorian chant in 19th century sacred music. As a devout Catholic, the influences of both early music and of the Catholic Church can be spotted within Bruckner’s Romantic motets.
A blend of eras
Locus Iste is a clear example the Romantic era’s revival of early music. This motet was written as the dedication of the Votive Chapel of the newly built Linz cathedral, which is made clear from the title ‘Locus Iste’, meaning ‘this place [was made by God]’. The piece is the setting of a Latin gradual:
Locus / iste / a / Deo / factus / est
place / this / by / God / maded / was (This place was made by God,)
inaestimabile / sacramentum;
priceless / mystery (it is a priceless mystery,)
irreprehensibilis / est.
without reproof / it is (it is beyond reproach.)
Bruckner’s motets consistently depict influences of early sacred music; along with the Latin text, hints of polyphony are found among the otherwise homophonic texture, such as the varied rhythms of the four parts in the penultimate phrase. The long, slow vocal lines throughout the piece and the use of modal chords are particularly reminiscent of Renaissance Gregorian chant.
Another early music influence is Bruckner’s use of the melody to emphasise parts of the text, known as word painting. This is most obvious in the bass line; scholars have highlighted “the isolation of the bass part at structurally important points” as evidence of word painting, for example initiating the ‘a Deo’ phrases in the first and third sections, and prompting the climactic rises at ‘inaestimabile sacramentum’.
However, the Romantic characteristics in Locus Iste cannot be ignored. Bruckner’s use of dynamic contrast is a clear step away from early music; there are very few gradual dynamic changes, and the sharp piano and forte contrasts between the sections provide the high level of passion that defined the Romantic era. 
This passion can also be found in the use of harmony, such as the use of accidentals and chromatic progression at ‘irreprehensibilis est’. This diversion from the more traditional harmonic progression in the first two sections shows a similar movement towards the Romantic style; here, we find the harmonic freedom allowed by Romanticism, embedded in the slow, majestic vocal lines of Gregorian chant.
Bruckner in present day
Today, Bruckner is better known for his symphonies than his motets; his 4th, 7th and 9th symphonies have stood the test of time particularly well. However, Locus Iste remains one of Bruckner’s most famous motets, and among his most popular sacred works. It has continued to be a favourite within choirs and choral societies, and will no doubt be filling churches with its Renaissance and Romantic blend for years to come.
Written by Rosa Stevens – Choir Manager and Librarian
Feature image source: https://bit.ly/2r8m4ME