21 Jan 2009

Refreshment of the Soul

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Au reste, mes frères, que toutes les choses qui sont véritables, toutes les choses qui sont honnêtes, toutes les choses qui sont justes, toutes les choses qui sont pures, toutes les choses qui sont aimables, toutes les choses qui sont de bonne réputation, et où il y a quelque vertu, et qui sont dignes de louange, que toutes ces choses occupent vos pensées.

Philippiens 4:8

Miss Mason talks alot about the aesthetic arts: art, poetry and music, and this is one of the reasons that her philosophy of education appeals to me and my family. We are art lovers. As a family we regularly visit art galleries; we subscribe to the Australian Ballet and the theatre; we attend musical concerts. We listen to a wide variety of music and have our house 'wired for sound' with speakers in every room.

Now that we're using AO, we gear our musical selections more toward achieving one of our educational objectives rather than just selecting a musical piece for mere enjoyment. Mind you, that's important too - if music is going to be played throughout our home, we've gotta like it!! Nowadays you're likely to hear French music - kids and adult selections; A Cappella Psalms and Bach - lots of Bach. (You'll also hear Kitaro and other Japanese artists like Sojiro, the great ceramic ocarina player ...but that's another passion...and another post...)

Bach's our composer for this term. Now if all we did for composer study was listen to Bach's music, then I think we'd be doing pretty well. It would be that easy too - pop a selection in the CD player and press play.

Given that music is one of our passions though, we do a little more than that.

Here's what we do do.

We schedule composer study once a week for a twelve week AO term.

On the first few of these we listen to the Classics for Kids radio programmes via the Internet. At the end of the programme Jemimah answers the three question quiz supplied, in lieu of narration and we discuss what we've learned that week. At the end of the programmes we look at the activity sheet and sometimes do an activity. We do very few worksheets, so an occasional one is a novelty and a bit of a treat. At the end of each session we listen to the featured work. The selection for Bach is his Brandenburg Concerto No. 2.

Once the radio programmes are finished we start reading our children's book. Anna Harwell Celenza's books are excellent and we'll be reading her Bach's Goldberg's Variations soon. As we read we listen to the music. The CD is supplied with the books, so it is easy. When Jemimah is older we'll use Opal Wheeler's bio's. We've picked up a couple of these on our second-hand bookshop forays and they look marvellous. Celenza's books are better for AO2 though, I reckon. We only read a few pages a day. Remember, the music is more important than the story here!!

Right through the term we listen to our Classical Kids CD, Mr Bach Comes to Call. These CD's are invaluable, in my opinion, and they're readily available in Australia too. Often the ABC shops have them in stock. The stories weave a fictional story around the facts of a composer's life. They're fun and instructive at the same time.

So far we have been able to use recordings in our collection for Composer Study. AO recommends the following selections for the Bach term:

Magnificat in D (4 weeks)
Chaconne (2 weeks)
any Church cantata (2 weeks)
Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 (2 weeks)
Art of the Fugue(2 weeks)

We modified this slightly according to what we have on hand. We're doing:

Goldberg Variations (from the book) (4 weeks)
Brandenberg Concerto no. 2 (2 weeks)
Cantata BWV 6 (2 weeks)
Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 (2 weeks)
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring from Cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben BWV 147 (We use the Celtic Woman version above).

We also have two "Best of" CDs:

The number one Bach album and Essential Bach. Both of these are two disc albums with some beautiful selections. We don't study exerpts like this; we do listen to them though!!

That's it, I think. Remember what I said earlier - if you just listen to a composer's music and learn to love it then you've done a great job of Composer Study. All the rest is simply the icing on the cake!!

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

J. S. Bach


  1. Thank you so much for sharing that! Refreshment, indeed!

  2. We are listening to Bach too and enjoying it so much. I agree with you about just taking it one composer at a time. There are a lot of years to introduce the greats. :)

    We are enjoying the Fugues the best and listening to them really *loud*.

    Art lovers at our house too,
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  3. That was such a great post. I particularly enjoyed the music selections from You Tube. I'd love to hear more about the Japanese music and any other great music you have found and enjoyed. I'm gonna search your blog for more posts on this.

  4. We love the Opal Wheeler books.
    I'll have to check on Celenza's books. I agree though...just listening to the music is most important.

  5. Oh...Celenza is the author of The Farewell Symphony...a wonderful book!


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