December 2010


Yes, I must admit that I get a bit weary of the youth culture. It isn’t that I don’t like young people. In fact, they are my favorite age group. However, it seems that they are the people who learn the quickest and adapt the best.

Who could imagine that they would understand how powerful texting could become and explode into the written word just when the rest of us were getting used to having a cell phone? They even adapted their own language to simplify the process.

Naturally, the older generation reacted with appropriate disgust. After all, wasn’t Pig Latin good enough for these up-starts? How dare they form a new language to make things easier for them to communicate?

When I was a child, there was great out-cry against comic books. My mother laughed and said, “If you are reading, I don’t care whether the words are in a bound book or a paper book.” Often, those of us in the older generation become proactive in countering every move that young people make. Then we cannot understand why they rebel.

Working with people who are mentally challenged adults, we often joke they are much like junior high without the attitude but not without the creative juices of that wonderful age group. Sunday evening during our Christmas play, I was fascinated with how Debbie captured what I had seen as a simple part of the angel who appeared to the shepherds and stole the hearts of the audience. Brian, who has been a lacidasical participant at practices, woke up to the importance of telling that about the miracle birth through song. He sang with gusto and great joy.

For me the miracles of the Man from Galilee have begun to manifest themselves in the gifts and creativity of this simple but amazing population. Thank you, Lord, for coming to live with us and change us into children of God.

You are invited to attend

God is With Us

A Christmas Canata and Play Presented by

The Special Gathering of

Indian River

on Saturday, December 4 at 7PM

Tabernacle Ministries Church

51 Old Dixie Highway

Vero Beach, Fl

and

Sunday, December 5 at 7PM

First United Methodist Celebration Cafe

110 E New Haven Avenue

Melbourne, FL

Come and invite a friend!

My approach to directing a choir of people who are developmentally disabled is very traditional.  I beat out the timing in the familiar directing patterns. (Others have told me that they find my method to be too complicated and they use a signing method.)  I’m left handed so I’m a bit backward, I beat out the timing with my left hand and give directions with my right hand.  Additionally, I’ve worked out several hand signals that speak clearly to the choir. 
 
For example, a closed fist means stop, be quiet or “shut your mouth.”  I tell the choir members that if they shut their mouths, it is impossible to sing.  I point to the choir member who is to sing a solo.  I may tell one person or the entire group to be quiet with this hand signal. 
 
I use my fingers and trumb to make a three-sided rectangle to tell the choir members to sing more softly.  I use this mostly for an individual who is singing too loudly.
 
When a soloist is to sing I put my fist to my mouth (as though I am holding a mike) to let her know to put the mike to her mouth.  I point to the individual to indicate that s/he is to sing.  To que the person that it is time to take their mikes’ from their mouth, I pull my “imaginary” mike from my mouth and put it to my side. I practice a great deal with the choir with the mikes.  I train them to hold the mikes to their mouth (like a lollypop or ice cream cone) so that the sound person can adjust the volume. I tell them that if they can’t hold the mike to their mouths, I understand completely and my feelings are not hurt. BUT they will not be able to sing a solo because they must be heard to be able to sing a solo.
 
Perhaps the most important thing that I do is to try and pick music that has longer musical breaks between the vocal phrases so that I can mouth the words to the choir before they sing them.  In this way, I can refresh their memories before they sing the words.  I also use simple signing for more complicated or longer musical phrases.
 
If a soloist or the choir has a tendency to sing words too quickly or too slowly, I will use my forefingers to punch my cheeks as I move my mouth to the correct timing of the words and music. 
 
In addition to mouthing the words before they sing them, I also mouth the words as they sing them.  I use exaggerated mouth motions to help them see the words more clearly.  Because the quality of my voices are very different from most of the choir members, I usually do not sing with the choir during a performance.  However, I sing at the rehearsals when we are learning a song, and I slowly wean them from my voice, as they become familiar with the words, by singing more softly, then stopping and only mouthing the words.  It is vital to wean the choir from my voice so that they learn to depend on each other, rather than my voice.
 
I emphasize the importance of looking at me at all times.  (This is the hardest thing most of our choir members have to do.) I also practice going on stage and off stage.  I tell them they are to walk on and off like a banana peel, not a bunch of grapes.  I feel this prepares the choir and the audience to take the choir seriously.  I don’t allow them to wave to the audience or make other hand gestures to the audience.  I want them to have the feel of an adult, professional choir that is competent in what they do. 
 
I have what I call my strength triangle.  These are the strongest, best quality voices.  I put them in the center of the choir.  This works several ways.  It disperses the voices that are of bad quality and it allows every person to hear the better quality voices as they sing.  They triangle voices encourage each other to sing with more volume and they keep each other on key.  (I don’t EVER talk about this with the choir.  However, they all know when they are moved into the Triangle).

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