We teachers live for the big payoff. The moment when the students connect the dots and finally “get it.” This morning, I was able to enjoy moments like that with both of my 5th grade classes. Last week, they received printed music for the round Gaudeamus Hodie and worked independently at sight singing it with fixed do solfege syllables. It was slow going for some of them, but most were able to sing at least two-thirds of the 24-measure song. On that day, they only sang it solo, not as a round.
Today, I gave them the same music, and told them that they were going to sing the song with the Latin text, practice singing it in three parts, with each third of the class singing one of the lines at the same time, and then as a round. As we went along rehearsing the song line by line, there were some measures where many sang wrong notes. At that point I went back to having them sing it with solfege so they could hear the correct notes, and so they would really notice what was there, and that it wasn’t what they had sung. Then, and here’s where that moment came, they sang the same measure with the Latin text, and they recognized the melody through audiation from what they had just sung with solfege.
On line 3 of the song, the melody goes up to top space mi. Several were not singing high enough. For a warm-up, we had sung intervals from a do major scale using solfege, so I returned to that warm-up. “What did this mi sound like before? Here’s do (I sang low do) now sing this high mi. You have to go past all of these notes (pointing to re through ti) to get to the note I’m asking you to sing. You may need to sing up all the notes in between to yourself. What does this high mi sound like?” From this, one of the students was able to sing the high mi correctly, and then the handful who had sung too low did also. One student still was too low.
I then directed their attention back to their printed music and to the third line where the high do, re, and mi were, and asked them to sing it again. Though it took them a couple of times through to accurately sing the pitches, they were now in the right part of their voice, and they now understood that those notes toward the top of the staff were sung in that part of their voice. After all of this, the class was able to sing the three lines at once, and come out with some nice harmonies.
Keeping the same groups, we now sang the song as a round. All but three students sang accurately, though some sang too quietly to enjoy the full effect of singing in three part harmony. Still, for the rest, their perseverance paid off, and the smiles that appeared as they sang and heard the harmonies were fun for me to see. For weeks we have been working on sight singing with fixed do, and now, it was at the point where the students could correct errors and find correct pitches using the syllables. That was my payoff, and theirs too.