Thursday, March 25, 2010
Back in the year 2000, I was serving as the Stake Primary Music Director. I had been asked to put together and lead a Primary Children’s Choir for Stake Conference. We would be singing prelude music, an opening song and one other number. As I pondered on the music to have the children sing, I felt the impression to talk to Tami Creamer, and ask her to write a song especially for the Children's Choir. She was a piano teacher /music writer that lived close by that I had just barely gotten to know.
I approached her about the idea. She was shocked. “Are you serious?” she had asked me with shock in her voice. I responded that I was.
After gathering her thoughts she then asked, “What would you like the song to be about.” I told her that I wanted it to be about the Savior.
I have found that any time we talk about the Savior, teach about the His life and teachings, and bear witness of Him, there is a profound reverence that fills the room that is unequaled when we talk about any other gospel principles or topics. I ccould think of nothing of greater importance or worth to sing about than the Savior.
Tami took the assignment and went to work. In later years she admits that this was one of the hardest songs she has ever written. It did not come easily. She carefully and prayerfully studied 3 Nephi. She thought about the children and what they must have felt when they not only saw, but touched the Savior and saw His wounds when He appeared to them after His resurrection.
Here a little and there a little, bits and pieces of the song came to her. They came in phrases or parts of a sentence. She would write them down. It took several weeks, even over a month for it to all come together. She asked a friend of hers, Derena Bell, to assist her with some of the wording and sentence structuring. The music then came together.
One day my doorbell rang. In walked Tami with the announcement that the song was done. She sat down at my piano and played. It was beautiful! The message was powerful! It was inspired!
Our stake president readily approved it so we began preparing for the choir.
Tami and I visited each of the wards in our stake to teach the song to the primary children. I taught and led the songs and Tami accompanied us on the piano. We visited 10 or 11 wards.
In teaching the song, I used a lot of body movements to portray the words in the song- just as the general primary board has now suggested in the “How to teach this song” hint box. About half way through the process, we were in the Nordic Valley ward, practicing the song, when for reasons I could not then explain, I interrupted the song and told the children how special they were. That this song had been written especially for the children of the Huntsville, Utah Stake to sing at Stake Conference. I told them this song was so special that someday their children would sing this song, and their children’s children because this song could end up being published in the Children’s Friend magazine. If it is published there, it could end up in the next Children’s Songbook where children all over the world would sing it. They then would be able to tell their descendants that that song was written just for them!
As I finished speaking these words, Tami, who was situated at the piano in the back of the room facing me, sat straight up behind the piano, eyes bulging, jaw dropped with a “huh” grunt. I had to ignore her response and proceed with singing the song.
After singing time was over, I exited the room through one door; Tami exited through the other and grabbed me in the hall where she put her hands on my shoulders and shook me and asked, “What were you thinking in there?!”
I told her it wasn’t me that came up with what I'd just said, it had just came out of my mouth! I too had been surprised. I had never entertained such a thought prior to saying it!
Months later, after much thought, Tami submitted the song to the LDS Church Music Competition. She won!! It was then published in the Children’s Friend Magazine in 2002, I believe!
In May of 2009, after returning to Utah from Guam where her husband had been working for the church, Tami received a phone call from the wife of a church leader over in Guam informing her that she'd just heard that Tami's song had been published in the Children’s Sharing Time Outline for the year 2010. It was listed as the song the children would learn and sing during the month of January! Now her song, literally, would be sung by children “all over the world!”.
Again I repeat, “Great is His wisdom and marvelous are His ways, the extent of His doings none can find out.” Who would have guessed that a woman from Liberty, Utah, my friend, would one day sit down and write a song that would end up being sung by children all over the world?
Tami is now living in Syracuse.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Use a fishing pole (or make a simple one by taking a dowel, tying a string to the end of the dowel, then gluing or tying a magnet to the end of the string) and have selected children come up and help you "fish". Cut out the desired number of fish out of colored paper or cardstock and label them. Attach a metal paperclip to each fish (so the magnet on the end of the fishing line can hook onto the fish). Spread the fish on the floor and let the children fish for.....
- the song you will be singing next or
- how- the type of activity or style you will be singing the practice song in (ie standing, marching, staccato, legato, clapping, etc.) or
- who the next helper will be (a different child's name is written on each fish)- they might get to help lead the song, answer questions, participate in holding up visual aides etc. or
- whatever other purpose you come up with !
Monday, March 9, 2009
By the way, I sure appreciate any comments received. And would love to know how the postings are working...for instance, do you find them effective?
Well here goes....
HOT & COLD GAME
This is not a new idea, but one that definitely has it's place when children need extra practicing on a song or just need a diversion with singing time.
The idea is simple: You select a child to go out of the room. After the child is outside the door, you can pick another volunteer to hide your preselected object somewhere in the room (or YOU can do it if time is short or reverence is a factor). After the object is hidden and all those in the primary room KNOW where it is, you open the door and invite the child in the hall to come in and see if he/she can find the hidden object. If the child is COLD or far away from the hidden object then the singing should be soft. If the child is getting HOT or close to the object, the singing should be loud. You may even get to repeat the verse or the song during this game.
To make it gospel centered, you might select appropriate props that have some application. For instance, years ago, I was given a Lehi and the Liahona set. It have a 10 inch tall Lehi that was colored and laminated and attached to a ribbon (to put around someone's neck). There is also a picture of a Liahona (also colored and laminated). The child finder represents Lehi and wears that picture necklace and we hide the Liahona somewhere around the room. You might make the point that we have to make the effort to search for the help and direction and guidance we need from our Heavenly Father. But that we have been promised help all along the way. You might quickly remind them of tools that our Heavenly Father has blessed us with to help lead us and qualify us to return to His presence. (This might lead to the singing of other songs that apply!)
Don't forget to take advantage of this easy but effective tool! Here are a few examples that are effective with children- especially younger children who have very short attention spans:
- Use sign language (this can be made-up as you work through a song or you can access a book on American Sign Language that shows you how to do the recognized signs for the words to the song (or you can use signs for just the key words). I use a book that I bought off the internet called: "Signing Made Easy" by Rod R. Butterworth and Mickey Flodin. It has illustrations to help you.
- Have the children stand and march to the rhythm of appropriate songs. "Called to Serve", "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ" and "Army of Helamen" are just a few good examples. Keep an eye on the eyes of the children. If they are starting to look glossy and yawning is occuring, it might be a good idea to incorporate movement into your singing. When I sing, "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ" I point to the direction I want the children to face when standing and marching. I change direction every few words or so (north, east, south, west, turn in a circle). This adds the element of them really needing to think and sing. To add a twist, go to the back of the room and have the children stand and sing to you in that direction.
- Clap to the rhythm of the song. Teach them how to downbeat of each measure is emphasized by clapping louder on the downbeat. You might also beat the rhythm with a fist into the palm of the other hand or two fingers on the palm of the other hand (depending on the reverence needs in the primary). Try clapping up in the air when the notes are higher and then down in their laps when the notes of the song are lower so the children can visually see how the notes go up and down.
- Clap, Snap and Tap to the rhythm of the song. Challenge the children to keep up with you!
- When teaching a song, if the yawns start up, take a break and do an activity song to help stimulate them. At the end of the activity song, slow down the pace of the song and fold your arms to help tone them down to participate in the next phase of learning.
It adds a fun element of surprise to singing time when a music leader unexpectedly invites everyone to "look under your chairs" for such-and-such! (Or you can hide them around the room for the children to quickly spot with their eyes.) You might place objects in sealed envelopes so the children have to wait their turn to see what's inside or you might use colored papers that correlate with something they will come up and do. For example, someone might find a pink piece of paper under their chair that correlates with a pink easter egg in the basket. They get to come open the egg and see what's inside- what song they will be singing for example!
Pipe bells made out of electrical conduit are a favorite with the primary children.
(It's a tradition to pull out the bells for christmas songs. I think pattern for the bells can be googled or you might find vendors online for these. I have my own set that I also use for family activities/ reunions etc.)
Shakers are also easily made. I found that I can make cheap shakers out of the plastic easter eggs. I fill them up with a teaspoon or so of rice or wheat kernals or popcorn (each one of these creates a different sound when shaking). Then I seal them shut by stretching tape around the seams of the eggs. The children love to see my bucket of egg shakers come out!
It's interesting to see how many times the children will ask me if they can keep their shakers- they love them!
A friend of mine, Patti, filled old film containers with the rice. Those lids fit rather snuggly.
Dried sponges rubbed together make a fun sound.
I also made rhythm sticks out of dowling found at any hardware store. I used the 3/8" or larger diameter sticks and cut them down to about 9-10" each. Each child was given 2 sticks to beat with while practicing the new song we were learning.
Let me know if you have ideas for any other effective instruments!
BUILD A SONG (adapted from General Primary Openhouse)
To sing your selected song, divide the children up into four groups or rows. Instruct:
- The first group to start singing on the first line of the song.
- The second group joins in singing on the second line of the song.
- The third group is to join in singing on the third line of the song.
- The fourth group is to join in singing on the fourth line of the song.
- If the song then has a chorus everyone will be singing for this.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
SONG: REVERENCE IS A FEELING
FOLD YOUR ARMS
Quietly stand up in front with your arms folded. Wait for the children to get quiet and fold their arms before starting...Remember your smile!
REVERENCE LEADER (Primary Openhouse)
Choose a child to be a reverence leader. Instruct the leader to walk slowly and quietly down the aisle, past the rows of children, keeping his/her arms folded along the way. With an encouraging look, he/she should show the others, by example, what they should be doing too. (As the children get used to this tool, have them think of other ways they might show their reverence in addition to folding their arms and being quiet....ie: thinking of our Savior, Heavenly Father.)
Invite the children to see if they can be like the mouse, and be very quiet. Hold up the QUIET visual.(This can be found at http://www.creativeconnectionz.com/)
HUM A SONG
Begin humming the reverence song as the pianist plays quietly. Hold up the "HUM" sign to signal the children to hum along with you. When you have everyone's attentions, then hold up the "SING" sign and lead the children in singing the reverence song.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
During Primary opening exercises each week, we sing a birthday song to at least one person. It sure makes the birthday person feel extra special when we jazz our singing up a bit.
Here's a few ideas to help:
(For birthday cake with removeable candles visuals go to http://www.creativeconnectionz.com/ for the Big Book of Super Singing Time Helpers.)
SING IN A ROUND:
Sing "You've had a Birthday" (CS 285) in a round:
Divide up the room into 2, 3 or 4 groups. Assign a singing leader to each group. Following the breaks listed in the Children's Songbook, cue each group, in turn, to start singing the song (from the beginning).
Another variation: Prepare 4 different word strips (large enough for all to be able to read.) Break the children into 3 groups. Assign a leader to each group to hold up that groups' card for the group to see and follow. You hold up the last card for all to see (#4).
On card #1 write: You've had a birth-day shout Hoor-ay! (sing 3 times)
On card #2 write: We want to sing to you today! (sing 2 times)
On card #3 write: One year older and wiser too... (sing 1 time)
On card #4 write: Hap-py Birth-day to you! (everyone sings)
Start with group#1, they sing their line and repeat it 3 times. Group #2 comes in after Group #1 finishes singing their first line. They sing their line twice with Group #3 coming in after Group #2 sings their line through once. Then everyone joins in on singing the last line!
(idea adapted from Primary Music Workshop- General Primary Board)
While singing the Birthday song (songs on pages 283, 284 of CS work well for this), do the actions to whaddalyatchie; slap your lap with both hands twice, clap hands twice, then cross hands over each other twice. Repeat these actions through the song. When you reach the end where you sing, "Happy Birthday to You", change the motion to: slap thighs, clap hands then point to the birthday person(s) and SMILE and sing Happy Birthday to you! (idea adapted from Primary Music Workshop)
MAKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE
Select children to represent the number of years the birthday child is old. (For example, if the child is turning 8, select 8 children to stand up.) Instruct those children to put their palms together (like praying), raise them up above their heads and wiggle their fingers to make the actions of a flame. They are the candles on the primary cake and they are flickering (with their fingers). Invite the rest of the primary to stand. Instruct them to pay attention. When we get to the part of the song where we sing, "Happy Birthday", they are all to sit down, leaving the candle children standing, flickering. This will represent a birthday cake. At the end of the song, everyone repeats, "Happy Birthday!" and the Birthday child takes a deep breath in and "blows" his/her candles out. The children put their hands down to their side when they are "blown" out. (idea adapted from Primary Music Workshop)
Start out the birthday song by singing it in a whisper, clapping to the rhythm of the song. As you sing, increase the volume and melodic sound until at last you belt out with enthusiasm, "Happy Birthday to You!" (idea adapted from Primary Music Workshop)