Sight-singing in three parts should always begin with exercises written in the contrapuntal style. There are instances of these in Three-part Vocal Exercises, by Raymond, published by Weekes & Sons. This book is also suitable for use where men’s voices are obtainable, the two treble parts being taken by two tenors, and the transposed alto part by a bass.
A good series of part-songs is to be found in the Year Book Press, which only admits songs by standard composers.
THE TEACHING OF TIME AND RHYTHM
It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of careful study before a teacher attempts to train children in a sense of time and rhythm.
Not only must an intellectual conception of the importance of the subject be arrived at, but a subconscious realization of it. The function of rhythm in the world should be perceived, and such natural phenomena as day and night, the seasons, the tides, and countless others, seem to be examples of the same principle. The same influence may be traced in social activities. Work cannot be organized and carried on where rhythmic order is not found, and no conception of the brain or of the artistic faculty can emerge uninformed by rhythmic continuity.
A human being imperfectly endowed with a sense of balance or rhythm is a danger to the community, and one who is entirely without this sense is spoken of as ‘insane’.
In the training of the teacher it is well to call attention first to the rhythm of speech, before entering into that of music. Those who have had a literary education have already studied the metrical properties of poetry and prose. They will readily agree that such phrases as:
‘My father’s father saw it not.’
‘Happy New Year to you.’
’Because I sought it far from men,
In deserts and alone.’
’We must go back with Policeman Day,
Back to the City of Sleep.’
can be thought of as written in [2/4], [3/4], [4/4], [6/8] times respectively.
M. Jaques Dalcroze has shown, through his Rhythmic Gymnastics, the extraordinary effect that rhythmic movements can have, not only on physical health, but on mental and moral poise. For highly nervous children some such work is of especial benefit, but for all children it is of great value. It should be supplemented in the ear-training class by constant practice in beating time to tunes. The teacher begins by playing simple tunes, with strongly marked accents. The children should discover these accents for themselves, and should be taught to beat time, using the proper conductor’s beats from the first.
The French time names—ta, ta-te, &c.—are invaluable in early stages. They are based on sense impression, and are picked up quickly by the children. By taking the crotchet as the unit to start with, the old-fashioned plan of exalting the semibreve, the least used note in music, to a primary place, is avoided.