Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Round with Latin Text

Sing a song with Latin text, first in unison, then as a three-part round.
Recall the meaning of the term anonymous.
Recall that Latin was the language of the Christian Church in the Middle Ages.
Become familiar with the word text as a musical term.
Pronounce the Latin words of the text for Dona Nobis Pacem.
Identify the kinds of notes on the staff and their time values in the piece.

Copies of the round Dona Nobis Pacem, master attached

Pass out the copies of Dona Nobis Pacem, and write the word text on the board. Ask for a definition of the term. (Accept any thoughtful answers.) Tell the students that when musicians talk about the text of a piece, they mean the words only, not the notes, not the melody with its particular pitches and rhythms, just the words. Say to them: Sometimes the music and the text of a piece of music are composed at the same time, by the same person, but often a composer will write the music for a text that is famous or well known in its own right. It might be a well known poem or a particularly beautiful part of a story that inspires the composer to write beautiful music that he or she thinks makes the meaning of the text even clearer or richer.

Ask them to look at the text of this piece and tell you what they notice about it. (Accept any answer that shows observation and thought. Some students will note only the difficulty of trying to figure out the language; others may note that only 3 words are used, again and again. Try to link their answers with the information you go on to tell them about the text.) If no one has guessed that the text is Latin, tell them now and ask: If this song has a Latin text, what kind of a clue does that give us about when it might have been written? (They should recall, from both History and Visual Arts lessons over the past month that Latin was the language of the Christian Church in Western Europe in the Middle Ages.)

Tell the students that the text for this piece, which means "grant us peace," is definitely from the Middle Ages, the Medieval Christian Church. Say to them: These particular words are a part of the worship service called the Mass, and people have been singing them for more than 1000 years. (Indicate the 10th century on the timeline.) Other parts of the Mass are even older, dating back as far as the 4th century. Many different composers over the centuries have set this text to music. The music you are learning today was probably written within the last 100 years, but, like the text, it is anonymous. Who remembers what the term anonymous means? (unknown author, painter, composer, from Visual Arts Lesson 17 in the context of monastic origins of illuminated manuscripts and manuscript painting) This means that both the text and the music of this piece are anonymous -- we don't know the names of the persons who wrote them.

Ask the students: Why do you think so many different composers at different times in history have chosen to set this particular text to music? (There have been so many wars, and people are always hoping and praying for peace.) Tell them how to pronounce the words: DOH- nah NOH-bees PAH-chem and have them repeat it after you a few times.

Next, sing the song through once for the students and ask them: What keeps changing in this piece, the text or the music? (music) If they have not already observed it, point out that the 3 words simply repeat over and over again in this piece. It is the melody and rhythm that change. Ask them to tell you what kinds of note values they see in the piece (eighth notes, quarter and dotted quarter notes, half and dotted half notes) Ask them what they see at the end of the piece that they saw in the Evening Bells piece they recently sang (double bar with 2 dots in front of it) Ask them: What does that sign tell us? (double bar at the end of every piece; 2 dots means repeat from the beginning) Tell them that means whenever they reach the end, they keep going back to the beginning until the conductor gives them the signal to stop.

Tell the students that this piece has 3 phrases in it and that musical phrases are like complete sentences. Ask them: Where do you think the 3 phrases in this piece begin and end? (The first begins at the beginning and goes for 8 measures; 2nd begins at measure 9 and goes for 8 measures; 3rd begins at measure 17 and goes for 8 measures.) Say to them: You have probably noticed the little numbers written above the beginnings of each phrase. That is because this piece was written to be sung as a three-part round or canon. What does that mean? (Everyone sings the same music but not at the same time.) It will all turn out perfectly, because each phrase has the same number of measures. Wherever your part is when the conductor signals for you to stop, just stop singing, and you will find yourself at the end of one of the 3 phrases.

Teach the song phrase by phrase, having them repeat the phrase after you. Then sing the whole song in unison until they are sure of it. Finally, divide the class into 3 groups with a few strong singers in each group if possible. Begin singing with the first group, then sing with the second as you bring them in, and finally the third. If the round hasn't fallen apart by the time the first group reaches the end, be sure to signal them to begin again at the beginning. Give them the signal to stop at the end of any phrase, slowing them down a bit as an approach to the end.

This is definitely the hardest of the rounds they have learned so far. The phrases are each twice as long as the other three-part round they have learned -- Evening Bells with four-measure phrases, and there are lots of opportunities to get lost and confused. You may need to go back to having them sing it in unison some additional times, so that they can feel more sure about each phrase. It is not necessary that they "read" the music as they go along; they will probably be learning this piece more by ear than anything else, but the more they have a visual picture of what is happening in the music, the sooner they will begin to master the skills for sight-reading music that is unfamiliar to them.

 Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 12 - Gregorian Chant


Recall the role of the Catholic Church in the arts of the Middle Ages in Western Europe.
Identify worship as the purpose of Gregorian chant.
Note that many different cultures have used chant as a form of worship.
Listen carefully to a few pieces of Gregorian chant.
Observe that the music has no harmony.
Brainstorm about the characteristics of rhythm and melody in Gregorian chant.
Write a descriptive paragraph.

Recordings of Gregorian chant from the Middle Ages, see Suggested Recordings
Classroom-size world map
journals or paper and pencil for writing a paragraph
Examples of notation of Gregorian chant (attached) or illustrations, see Suggested Books

Suggested Recordings
Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass (males voices) Naxos CD 8.550711
Gregorian Chant for Seasons of the Year (female voices) Naxos CD 8.550712
Gregorian Chant for Good Friday, Naxos CD 8.550952

Suggested Books
Brookfield, Karen. Book. New York: New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.
Examples of the earliest kind of musical notation (without the lines and spaces of a musical staff) as well as the four-line staff that evolved in the 12th century are both illustrated-   with examples on p. 27.
Medieval Life. New York: Knopf and London: Dorling Kindersley, 1996.
Another book in the Eyewitness series, this includes a beautifully illustrated section on "Holy orders," and "Life in a monastery" (pp. 36-39). Excellent color photographs of instruments from the Middle Ages, with good explanations about various music from the period are on pp. 56 and 57.


Begin the class by asking for the words of the round that they learned in the last lesson (Dona nobis pacem). Remind the students that, although the music itself is not so old, the text of the round is over a thousand years old. (Review the meaning of text as a musical term.) Have the students recall the architecture and decoration of Medieval cathedrals as the place where Christian worship took place. Tell the students that in the Middle Ages monks and nuns and other religious people worshiped in churches and cathedrals every day, even many times each day. The official worship services in the Medieval Catholic Church are known as the liturgy of the Church, and that term includes all the texts and all the music that were part of the various services. Most of the texts were lines from different parts of the Bible -- especially from the psalms. No one was ever allowed to write new words for the liturgy once they had been agreed upon by popes, bishops, and other important men in the Church.

Tell the students that the most important part of the daily liturgy of the Church was called the Mass. The Mass has many different parts, and in the Middle Ages all of the parts were sung.

Some of the parts were exactly the same every day and were sung by all the people. Other parts changed daily, according to the particular season of the liturgical year, the celebration of feast days or honoring of saints, and these parts were sung by a special choir or musicians trained as soloists. The text Dona nobis pacem comes from one of the parts, called the Ordinary of the Mass, that were sung every day by everyone who came to worship.

At this point, play a few examples for the class. If you have chosen one of the recordings suggested above, they are examples of the second kind of chant, called the Propers of the Mass that are particular, or proper, to a special day and sung by a trained group of singers who might have been monks, nuns, or minor clergy in the Middle Ages. The students would notice that men and women did not sing together for those parts of the Mass, that they would hear no instruments, and that the rhythm is relatively free of strong accents, that the texts are in Latin, and that -- in most cases -- the movement of the melodies is smooth and without large leaps. If they should listen to a recording of hymns or sequences from the Middle Ages, they will hear music that is more regular in its rhythm and repeats the same music for several different verses.

When the students have listened to several pieces, write the phrase Gregorian Chant as a title on the board. Tell the students that the music they have been listening to is called Gregorian chant, named after Pope Gregory I (served from 590-604). People thought for a long time that Pope Gregory was responsible for the development of the chant of the Church, and that's how it was named. Now, historians have learned that what we call Gregorian chant developed before the time of Pope Gregory, but the name is still used.

Tell the students that many different religious groups all over the world have a tradition of chant as part of their worship, and nowadays we can hear some of these different kinds of chant on recordings. Write harmony, melody, and rhythm on the board as categories for comment under the phrase Gregorian Chant. Ask the students for comments about each of these, based on the selections of Gregorian chant you have played for them. In addition to the characteristics we have given, individual responses can provoke discussion (why no instruments are heard, why no harmony is heard, why the rhythms seem so floaty and without strong beats, etc.).

If there is time and interest, you may want to tell them that, up until the 11th and 12th centuries, all of this music was learned by heart, because there was no regular system of music notation. Older monks and nuns taught younger ones, people in church learned from one another. Show them on the map all of the places where the same music was sung (all over Western Europe, including the British Isles), so they can have an idea how remarkable that -- without recording devices or written notation systems -- the music for the sung liturgy was the same throughout the Church. Say to them: Scribes finally began writing down the music that was sung in one monastery, church, and cathedral and another, from country to country, so today we have written evidence of a tradition that was an oral tradition for hundreds of years. The very first attempts to write down the music were without any music staff and looked like little squiggles around the texts. The little squiggles are really a way of showing what the conductor (or the cantor as he or she was known in the Middle Ages) did with his or her hands to remind the singers of the way the melody moved. Later, they began to have one line to show relatively higher and lower pitches, then finally several lines. If you don't have access to illustrations, use the 2 attached, which are fuzzy because they are taken from manuscripts that are from the 11th and 12th centuries.

To end the class, have the students complete a journal prompt as you play the chant for them in the background. Tell them they are to write a descriptive paragraph, beginning, I can visualize the place where this music was sung during the Middle Ages.