Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 5 - An Ancient Round

Note for the Teacher
Again, most of the following section on music notation should be review. (Only the 6/8 time signature is new to 5th Grade.) However, since this is the first year for Grades 3-5 to see this curriculum, they will need further drill on these elements during the course of the year.)

Sing the melody for "Sumer Is Icumen In."
Recall the definition for round or canon.
Sing "Sumer Is Icumen In" in unison.
Sing "Sumer Is Icumen In" as two-part round or canon.
Observe clef and time signatures.
Observe quarter and 8th notes; quarter and 8th rests.

Music for "Sumer Is Icumen In," used as a transparency, from Lesson 3

Show the students the transparency of "Sumer Is Icumen In," and ask who remembers what country this song comes from (England, Great Britain). Remind them that this may be oldest known canon, or round, that has been preserved on paper--that it may be as much as 700 years old. Say to the students: People may have been singing canons much longer ago than that, but this is the oldest one we have written down on paper in musical notation. Ask them: What does that word canon, or round, tell us about how this music is to be sung? (Everyone sings the same music but not at the same time, which creates harmonies.) How did we sing this song last time? (in unison--everyone sings the same notes at the same time) What do you think is a good clue that this song is very old? (Some of the words are very old-fashioned; some of the spellings are old-fashioned, as they can see in the title, where the old-fashioned spelling is retained.)

Have them sing the song in unison as you beat time in a duple meter. Simply move one arm and hand up and down, 2 per measure, so that the first movement is the down beat and the 2nd movement, the up beat. This will keep the group singing together, which becomes increasingly important as they begin to sing the song as a round. When you feel they are singing the melody together and with some confidence, tell them the next step is to sing it as a round.

Divide them into 2 groups, telling them that they could divide into as many as 4 different groups, but, for now, 2 groups will let them hear the harmonies they can produce with this one melody. If, by this time in the year, you know who your stronger singers are, be sure to have some or all of them in the group you do not sing with. Alternatively, you could try not singing, divide up your strong singers evenly between the 2 groups, and help out if any one group gets lost.

Show them on the transparency that as soon as the 1st group has sung the first line, the 2nd group will begin at the beginning, so that on the downbeat of "Grow" by the 1st group, the 2nd group will be singing the "Sum" of "Summer." Tell them that they will sing the song through twice, and the 1st group will have to wait for the 2nd group to finish.

Start the 1st group. This time, while conducting with one hand, use the other to point to each group when it needs to come in. The 2nd group will need a good preparatory look and signal before they enter; then give them a good downbeat when they actually enter. Since they are singing the song twice, they will have a chance to hear one another in full harmony. (Students will have sung a simpler round in 4th Grade, but this year the 5th-graders are new to the experience.) Don't be surprised if the two groups really belt out their respective parts at first; as they have more confidence in not being pulled in by the other group, it will sound better. One way of effecting this is to ask them to sing the round softly and rhythmically. That way, they will have a better chance of listening to one another. Congratulate them on their efforts.

Have the class focus again on the transparency and say to them: I need your help in identifying the special musical signs that tell us how to sing this piece of music. Have someone come up and draw a circle with a finger around the very first musical sign he or she can see on this piece. Tell them the sign is a treble clef. Write the words on the board and tell the class that the treble clef at the beginning of the piece tells us where to find do for each piece. Point out that the treble clef sign always curls around the second line on the musical staff. Show them how it is made, starting with the straight line up past the staff, then curling back down and finally circling around the second line.

Ask someone to circle the next sign (6/8). Tell them the sign tells us the meter of the piece, and some people call it the time signature. (There are several possible time signatures in music, and the students may already have seen 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.) Remind them that the time signature always tells us how many beats are in each measure (show the vertical lines that mark the beginnings and ends of the measures) and what kind of note gets a single beat. Ask them: How many beats are in each measure of this piece? (6) And what kind of a note gets a single beat in this piece? (an 8th note) Tell them they can always tell 8th notes, because they are the ones that have either a little flag on the stem (show the 2nd, 4th, and 6th notes of the piece) or--if more than 1 come together, they are joined together by a line (show notes 7, 8, and 9).

With this information, the students should be able to say or count out the 6 beats in all the measures of the first line as you point to each note with a pointer or ruler. Remind them that, just as in mathematics, two 8ths make 1 quarter. Have them sing the 1st line through a few times, using the numbers 1 through 6 for each measure. Then point out the two squiggly signs at the end of the last measure in the 1st line, and ask: Do these 2 signs look exactly the same? (no) Tell them that the 1st is a quarter rest; the 2nd, an 8th rest. Say to them: Rest signs in music tell us exactly that: there is a silence for that number of beats, and it's important that we hear that silence. Say to them: We will work on the dotted notes soon, but for this time, let's just sing through the first line again, being sure to listen for some silence during the rests.

Finally, tell the students that the reason you conducted them with 2 large beats as they sang this round is that 6/8 time can be divided into 2 larger groups of rhythm. This time have them sing the piece in unison again as you point to the notes with 1 hand and beat the duple rhythm with the other hand. They should feel the accented beats fall on 1 and 4, so that it sounds like 2 large pulses. Have them beat the pattern with you as they sing it, to make certain they are feeling the pattern of 2 pulses in each 6/8 measure of music.

Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 6 - Vocal Music in the Renaissance

Note that in music, piano means soft; forte means loud.
Listen to a madrigal from Renaissance Italy.
Observe imitation among many vocal parts.
Identify harmony among the voices.
Listen to a lute song from Elizabethan England.
Identify the lute as a member of the string family.

Recording of a madrigal by Monteverdi, see Suggested Recordings below
Recording of a lute song by John Dowland, see Suggested Recordings below
Picture of a lute from books about stringed instruments, see example and Suggested Book below

Suggested Book
Danes, Emma. The Usborne First Book of Music. Tulsa, Oklahoma: EDC Publishing, 1994.
There is a colored illustration of a lute being played in a typical renaissance instrumental ensemble on p. 38.

Suggested Recordings
For Monteverdi madrigals:
Madrigals from Book 5, Point CD 5112
Monteverdi IXth Book of Madrigals, LP SMS 2868
For Dowland solo voice and lute songs:
Ayres for Voice & Lute, Virgin Classics CD 59521
The First Booke of Songs or Ayres for Voice and Lute, Metronome, MET CD 1010

Background for Teacher
Claudio Monteverdi lived from 1567 to 1643 and worked first for the Duke of Mantua, for whose court he produced his first book of madrigals. These were songs with texts in Italian, for 2 to 6 voices that imitate one another to a degree of great complexity. All the voices share the melodic material equally. Eventually, Monteverdi included a few instruments in some of his madrigals and developed this particular form to perfection. His vocal madrigals were taken to England, where composers such as Morley and Dowland wrote many in a similar style, setting some of the finest Elizabethan poetry. From 1613 to the end of his life, Monteverdi served as maestro di cappella at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.

The English composer Dowland was the first to compose secular songs in which a single voice carries a melody that an instrument accompanies or supports. John Dowland was born, probably in 1563, in London. He was a poet and an outstanding player of the lute, a stringed instrument that was a precursor to the modern guitar. Somehow he was never able to obtain a position at the English royal court (possibly because he was a Catholic and the Protestant Elizabeth I was queen at the time). He found patronage in Germany, at Kassel and later at the court of King Christian IV in Denmark. Of his many compositions, 80 secular songs with lute accompaniment survive, plus numerous works for lute alone, mostly dance tunes of the period--Galliards, Jigs, Allemains, and Pavanes. At the time Dowland was writing, music in England became very much domesticated--moving from royal courts to the homes of merchants and other members of a rising urban class who wanted the sophistication of music-making in their homes. In 17th- and 18th-century England, the presence of a lute in the home was similar to that of a piano in middle-class homes in America in the early 20th century.

Note to the Teacher:

The Suggested Recordings listed above contain many selections. All of the madrigals and the Dowland songs are short and take only a few minutes each to listen to, but you should make the choice of the particular pieces the students will hear before the class begins. The characteristics of the Italian Renaissance madrigal are evident in all of Monteverdi's madrigals, but as this is probably the first exposure for most students to this genre of music, make sure to choose one of Monteverdi's gay, rapid, and thoroughly secular madrigals. (He also wrote wonderful sacred music--a Vespers for St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice featuring both brass and vocal choirs and two different settings of the Magnificat, among other beautiful pieces.) The students should have the opportunity to hear the development of classical and secular arts in music as they have already seen in art. In the case of Dowland's lute songs, make sure you do not choose one of his melancholy, lovelorn tunes. As lovely as they can be, they are not as appealing to young students and the connection between the Italian madrigal vocal style and the Elizabethan air will not be as clear.

Start by dividing the class into 2 groups to stand and sing "Sumer Is Icumen In" as a round. Tell the class before they begin singing: Remember, both groups will sing through the song twice, so the first group will have to wait quietly for the second to finish their last part. The first time you sing the song, let's have it loud, which would look like this if we wrote it as a direction on the music. (Write forte on the board; have the students say it after you, and tell them it is an Italian word that means strong.) The second time, I want you to sing it quietly. Does anyone know the Italian word that means soft or quiet in music? (Write piano on the board and have the students repeat it after you. Point out this means that both forte and piano sinnging will be heard at the same time for just a few seconds.) You have heard the word piano before as the name of a keyboard instrument. That instrument's full name is pianoforte. Who can think of a reason for naming that keyboard instrument a pianoforte? (because it can be played to produce both loud and soft music) Up until the time the piano was invented, keyboard instruments, like the harpsichord, clavichord, and cembalo, were quite small and capable of only soft sounds. Ask the students: How will you sing the round the first time? (forte) And the second time? (piano) Tell them that from now on those are the terms you will use for loud and soft, since they are the terms that musicians use.

When they have finished singing, ask the class: What is it that you could hear when you were singing "Sumer Is Icumen In" as a round that wasn't there when you sang it in unison? (harmonies, different notes or pitches sounding together) Tell them that the song they are going to listen to next is called a madrigal, and is filled with harmonies. Say to them: This piece was written for many voices towards the end of the Italian Renaissance by a composer named Claudio Monteverdi. Tell them something about Monteverdi's life and then play one of the madrigals for them. When they have listened, ask: Did you hear any instruments? (probably not, though a few of the madrigals include instruments)

How many voice parts do you think you heard? (could be anywhere from 2 to 6, depending on the particular one you chose)

Do you know what language they were all singing in? (Italian)

Is there any way that the Monteverdi madrigal reminded you of the round you were singing? (harmonies and the fact that different voices entered the song at different times)

Play the madrigal again and tell them to try to count all the different times that voices jump into the song, almost as though they were all chasing each other. (Let them tell you how many they have counted, and see whether the class can come to a consensus. The number is not important; the goal is that they become aware of this style of vocal "imitation" that is so typical of Italian Renaissance music.)

Next, without telling them anything about it, play them an "Ayre" of Dowland for solo voice and lute accompaniment. After they have listened, ask what they heard. (Accept any answer that indicates they have listened.)

Did you hear voices or instruments? (one voice, one instrument)

Was the instrument playing piano or forte? (piano)

What language was the song written in? (English; may have to hear it again for them to get the answer)

What family do you think the instrument you heard belongs to? (strings)

Tell them that the instrument is called a lute, and it was as popular in the time of Elizabeth I in England as the guitar is for us now. It was played in the same way as a guitar is, by plucking the strings with the right hand while moving the fingers of the left hand to different places called frets that are marked on the fingerboard with little raised crossbars of wood or ivory. Show them a picture of a lute or show them the one pictured here and tell them that nowadays a small number of musicians learn to play the lute, but that most of the music written for the lute was written between about 1507 to 1770 when many people played the instrument.

Tell them something of Dowland's life and that he wrote many, many songs with lute accompaniment as well as music for the lute alone. Tell them that people in England commonly had lutes at home for singing with, the way we might have a piano or guitar. Say to them: This shows a big change in music from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. In the Middle Ages, just about the only music we have that was written down was written for churches and monasteries. In the Renaissance, dukes and wealthy people hired musicians to write and play music for them in their courts or castles. And finally, during the time when the lute was popular, even people who were craftsmen and tradespeople owned instruments and sang music at home. Composers wrote their songs about human love and war and beauty, as well as songs of religious devotion.