PS 22 Chorus- "Don't Stop Believin'"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pence's Christmas Program

Second, Third and Fourth Graders at Pence are in the very beginning stages of working on our Christmas program.  We will be doing a short musical entitled "It's Christmas, Carol!"  Few traditions are as widely enjoyed as Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol."  With that in mind, "It's Christmas, Carol!" is a modern adaptation of that famous story.  Ebeneezer Scrooge is replaced by a very grumpy head elf at the North Pole named Carol.  The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are here as well, as are lots of elves and other surprises.  All will be revealed as we learn how Carol has a festive change of heart and an abundance of Yuletide cheer.  The program is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13 at 7:00 pm in the high school auditorium.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We are learning about rhythms

Here is Mr. Strickler's 4th grade class in music.  One of the skills we are improving on is how to count rhythms.  One of the ways we do this is by playing a game called Rhythm Bingo, which is what this class is preparing to do.  In it, the teacher starts by clapping and counting out loud one of the rhythms on the student's card.  The class then echoes the teacher's pattern by clapping and counting, then finds and marks it on their card.  When a student gets a Bingo, they get to clap and count the rhythms in their bingo, then receive a prize.  The 4th grade will be able to track their progress with a pre-test, a mid-year test, and a post-test given at the end of the school year.  That way, they can be on their way to being rhythm experts!

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 And the Power of Music

9/11 And the Power of Music
The large amount of media coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy got me thinking lately about the different ways we grieve, both individually and as a nation.  Certainly the media has used startling photographic images, some of them being well-known to us by now.  But a closer look (and listen) reveals another means, just as powerful, if not more, than these photos and videos.  Have you ever noticed that much of the images and videos we watch on TV are accompanied by music?  Music has a power that I’m not sure many people realize.  This fact was brought home more clearly to me by the article in the September 11 Des Moines Register titled “Beyond Words:  The Soundtrack of 9/11.”  In it, writer Michael Morain recounts the many ways Americans have chosen to remember this date.  Mr. Morain tells about a concert given at the Twin Towers site by opera star Renee Fleming a few weeks after the attacks.  Ms. Fleming said it was the most difficult concert she had ever sung, being unable to look into the faces of the victims’ families.  Morain said even though the words of Fleming’s “Amazing Grace” washed over the audience, it was the familiar tune that really hit home.  This is when we sometimes realize that words can only do so much.  We became buried beneath an avalanche of 9/11 words – in books, articles and media coverage.  Morain theorizes that that is why so many concerts have been scheduled during this time.  Music has a way to touch us and even heal us in a way that words alone cannot.  In more rare cases, even the absence of music adds to an experience. One of the reasons Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” is so eerie is because there is no music in it whatsoever. Classical music is written off as being only enjoyable by a certain niche of people. However, when one considers the film and advertising industries, classical music is quite pervasive in American culture.
“One of the really wonderful things about music is that it allows individuals and groups of people to go to places that are beyond what words can make possible,” said Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras.  Orchestras are not engaged in asking questions like “what does this mean for America?”  “How do we keep this from ever happening again?”  Its listeners bring their own experiences to the concert and take from it whatever they will.  In this way, concerts become a very individualized listening experience.    Parts of the aforementioned Renee Fleming  concert were made into a documentary titled “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero”.  At the end of the film, two people are shown holding hands as they jump from one of the towers on that fateful day.  As they fall, the documentary plays strains of Schubert’s String Quartet under the narrator’s voice. This moment, as with many other events, are made more poignant and eternal with the addition of music.
Previews of “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero” are available on YouTube. The documentary, produced by Helen Whitney, can be purchased through

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Southeast Conference Vocal Festival

Mozart, circa 1780
October 25th is the day when several hundred high school choir students from the conference descend on Fairfield High School for the annual Conference Vocal Festival.  The students will have been practicing the music for this concert since the beginning of the school year.  Featured will be the music of Mozart, specifically his "Sparrow" Mass and his motet "Ave Verum Corpus."  Six schools will be present:  Fairfield, Mt. Pleasant, Washington, Ft. Madison, Keokuk and Ottumwa.  The students will rehearse all day with a guest conductor, followed by the 7:00 pm concert in the FHS gym.  Another unique feature of this event is that the mass choir will be performing their Mozart pieces with an orchestra, and special soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists.  Each school will also be performing a song individually.  This may be one of the only times many of these high schoolers get to perform with an orchestra, which makes it fairly special.