Pittsburgh Orff Schulwerk post-workshop notes


Peter and Mary Alice’s Pittsburgh Golden Triangle
Orff Schulwerk workshop

Saturday, October 21, 2017
Hartwood Elementary School, 3730 Saxonburg Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Many thanks to Heidi for wonderful, thoughtful and thorough pre-workshop planning and for taking such good care of us while we are here.  Thanks for Rachel for the great space and sound system, and for helping so much in preparation.  We know there are many others who made our trip possible, thank you. Thanks to all the great children and parents who came in the 2nd part of the workshop, and to all of you greater Pittsburgh music teachers – Mary Alice and I loved singing and dancing with you today.

The next section is a little about Mary Alice and me and our family.  That is followed by our  post-workshop notes.

MEET OUR BOYS & their ladies:

Stefan and Zara singing with the Starry Mountain Singers. Zara singing lead on the left, Stefan singing bass on the right.

Stefan on percussion/vocals and his wife (red head) Zara Bode with their band the Sweetback Sisters

Stefan is currently touring with The Devil Makes Three

Sam with the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Sam fiddling

Sam’s wife Beth Orton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy”

*            *            *

Mary Alice and I are also choral arrangers and choral singing leaders.  Here is my a cappella SATB arrangement of Rani Arbo’s setting of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNZ754iEPuM and Mary Alice’s a cappella SATB setting of an Isaac Watts poem: “Sweet is the Day” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqJlBSrI5lQ

I am the co-director and Mary Alice a member two Southern Vermont choruses:
– Hallowell, an a cappella SATB hospice choir in Southeastern Vermont that has been the inspiriration for the formation scores of other hospice choirs across the United States. – http://hallowell-singers.org/
-Guilford Community Church, UCC Choir – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgd4HsOZw2Q

Our choral arrangements are available on our Online Choral Store.

*            *            *

 Go to your own local dances http://pittsburghcontra.org/ and http://www.contradancelinks.com/schedule_PA.html

*           *          *


(note, “NEDM” = “New England Dancing Masters”)

. . . We music teachers have so many opportunities to leave students with life-long gifts.  Life-long gifts from dance include some basics like left and right, posture, clockwise/counterclockwise, and other spatial awareness concepts.  They include an instinctive, visceral understanding of musical phrase and rhythm.  They include social skills of respect and group cooperation without which dances simply will not work. But the deepest lesson is the deep joy, the group joy that can come out of dancing. You can create a culture that fosters that joy by leading dances you are excited about, by dancing to music you love, by turning off for a while your teach-management thoughts and by letting yourself get lost in dancing with your students.

Blaydon Races
We used ‘Blaydon Races’ from NEDM’s 2010 Revision of the ‘Chimes of Dunkirk’ CD for this. You can also use any jig or  reel medley for this dance. We did this is a mixer, but you can also do it with younger children without changing partners. We often call this at weddings.  We always start  teaching this, as we do with any circle mixer, by having the dancers promenade and defining the gents/moons/peanut butter/inside partners and the ladies/stars/jelly/outside partners.

Sun  Is In My Heart in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
We find this to be comforting for both us and for the children.

Little Seed – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.
We love “the little wait…” in this fingerplay/song. 

Tree Song – in NEDM’s Down in the Valley collection
Lorraine Hammond, who composed this wonderful singing game, is a songwriter and musician, and the best known  Appalachian dulcimer player in the country.  She is in the  greater Boston area.  The piano arrangement on the CD is Peter’s.  We find this to be a calming, centering dance,  both for the children and for ourselves.  I introduced it with a story about Roger moving to Vermont in the 18th century, creating a farm, raising a family, and planting an apple orchard.

Form the Corn – In NEDM’s I’m Growing Upbook/CD/DVD.
You can do this scatter singing game anytime, anywhere.  We often include it in our assembly programs.

Riding Our Ponies  in NEDM’s I’m Growing Up book/CD/DVD
Children practice handshakes and eye contact in this instantly engaging singing game.

Kindergarten Reel in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk
A great first partner-longways-dance-to-instrumental music for young children.  Send me an email and I will email you the mp3 for the music to Kindergarten Reel.  Of course you can play the music on anything; piano, French horn, recorder, oboe, basoon.

Dance Teaching Tips
Mittens; front of your mitten on the front of your neighbor’s mitten, thumb lightly on back; take hands drop hands take hands drop hands; posture; teach the forward separately  from the back in the forward and back; :shake and take” for teaching promenade; while promenading: inside person is the moon/peanut butter/gent,  outside is the star/jelly/lady; four steps of making a circle from a  promenade: “Hang on to partner stop walking, hang on to partner face the center, drop hands, take hands.”; many ways of keeping the circle big and round on circle left and right; dosido (gents start on inside, ladies start going outside) flowing into two hand turn flowing into promenade; when music starts clapping the first of each 8 beats; doing the dance with your hands; “thick” calling, then “thin” calling then no calling; saying the call right before the ‘clap’ or before the first beat of  the phrase and figure.

La Bastringue  In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk book & CD
This simple circle/partner dance can be easily adapted for younger children.  Have them circle left hold hands straight across, then “open like a book” into a promenade holding “handy hands” (gent’s right and lady’s left)

I’m Growing Up by Mary Alice Amidon
Brotherhood & Sisterhood by Peter Amidon
These are both in our Song in My Heart book and companion CD.

In the Fiddle is a Song
I Grow Up I Want to Be Me
Day Is Done

Lucky Seven In NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk collection We used ‘The Coming Dawn’ from NEDM’s  ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD. The grand right & left exercises: First all promenade to determine inside/outside gent/lady or marshmellow/chocolate roles.  Then all face partner.  Ladies crouch while men weave around circle, starting on the inside. Then Men crouch and assist ladies as they weave around: right hand for outside, left hand assist for inside.  Then all stand and face center and do a stationary grand right and left just with the arms, counting up to seven.  Repeat that, but this time stepping in place (two steps per arm reach).  Then face partner and ‘repeat after me’ some of the rules: ‘I will not turn around, I will not go back…’ etc.  Tell them that it always takes seven times to get it right,  and make sure, when it doesn’t go right, that they all go back to where they started from (rather than trying to fix it in the middle of the grand right and left figure). Level one: Wait 8 beats on 2nd half of A2 music.   Level two: dosido partner on 2nd half of A2 music. Level three: At end of grand right and left allemande right the 7th person about 1 1/4 into a promenade.

Bridge of Athlone – In NEDM’s Listen  to the Mockingbirdcollection.
You can do this from “Blarney Pilgrim” on the “Listen to the Mockingbird” CD.  I used, and love using “Reel de Rimouski” from NEDM’s “Any Jig or Reel”. If you have sets of, say, 7 – 9 couples (and more space than we had) and encourage the children to skip through the cast off under the arches,. We added the “cascading two-hand swing”: every couple successively go into a wave of two-hand-swings  as the active couple moves from the top to the bottom of the dance (the gent going through the tunnel) at the end of  the sequence.

Larry’s Mixer in Listen to the Mockingbird.
We used Cheris from NEDMS’s Other Side of the Tracks CD for music. This and many of the other tracks on this and on NEDM’s Any Jig or Reel CD are purposely longer than tracks in our other recordings, so that you and your students can get into the joyful groove of dancing that is more likely to happen when you dance for a long stretch.

  * BREAK *

Children and parents arrived and joined in . . .

Galopede in NEDM’s Chimes of Dunkirk.
The ending we did, the cascading sashays to the bottom, I call the “eggbeater”.  The very last time through the dance after the top couple goes down the middle, the 2nd couple moves up the sides to the top and then goes down the middle, then the third couple, then the fourth, etc.

Quartz Mountain – created by teachers at an Amidon workshop at the Oklahoma Arts Institue in Quartz Mountain.
I teach the clap first: crouch and wind up, the clap launches the jump up.  Then clap, clap-wind-up, then the clap-jump. It is thrilling when everyone does the clap-jump at the same time. This is not in your handout; here is the dance:
Circle mixer
Music: any reel medley
A1: Circle left, Circle Right
A2: All forward and back
Gents go forward and clap on beats 5, 6, 7 jumping on beat 7 and turning 180º in air and landing facing new partner
Women stay where they are, clap on beats 5, 6, 7, jump TO THEIR RIGHT one place on Beat 7.
B1: If all children: Long R elbow swing with new partner – if community dance with adults: dosido/R elbow turn new partner (because adults get dizzy easier)
B2: Promenade new partner.

Sasha – In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut
A great dance for all ages! We are not sure of the origins of this dance: one source suggested it was a novelty dance based on a Russian pop song from the 60’s.  ‘Ras, dva, tri’ is Russian for ‘ready, set, go!’

Vote for Me by Faya Rose Touré, the first woman African American judge in Alabama. Faya Rose lives in Selma Alabama and does educational projects with local children and teenagers to keep them in touch with the remarkable Civil Rights history of their city.  I think she wrote this song with the children.

Nyangara a traditional folktale from Zimbabwe
Here is a transcription of my telling of the story.

Acting out folktale  Look at the Storytelling with your Students essay on page 14 of your handout.

Traffic Jam  from John Krumm
This scatter mixer is a great ice-breaker dance, particularly for older elementary school children and for a community dance.    

Kings & Queens In NEDM’s Sashay the Donut collection
We used ‘On the Danforth’ from NEDM’s ‘Other Side of the Tracks’ CD for this dance.  You might also use our other version of ‘On the Danforth’ which is on our ‘Sashay  the Donut’ CD. Before we teach this dance we will dub each child a King or a Queen, and talk to them (sometimes while the music is playing to help sustain the mood) about what it means to be a King and Queen: They have royal posture, they never rush, they make good decisions, they are very attractive; basically describing the ideal King/Queen or, which, in my mind is being the very best person they can be.  Then I “dub” each child a  king or a queen, making sure they have their royal posture before I dub them. This is in the style of an historic English country dance, like the dances done in Jane Austen’s time and novels.

Circle Waltz Mixer In NEDM’s  ‘Sashay the Donutcollection.
Teaching the Circle Waltz Mixer
Dancing the Circle Waltz Mixer
We used ‘In Continental’ Waltz from the ‘Sashay’ CD  for the music. This is a wonderful dance for a wedding  where you can do it the original way we learned it, doing  a short waltz instead of the two hand turn.  In the original  dance gents are the “posts” and women are the “twirlers”, but it works perfectly fine in a non-gender community  dance with a two hand turn.  Here are some tips to for teaching this dance:
Start by having everyone promenade. Tell all the inside (left hand) partners they are “posts” and all the outside (right hand) partners they are “twirlers”.
All look at partner and say “goodbye”.
Posts stay in place and keep their feet planted during the “twirl” figure.
Carefully teach the first “twirl” each “Post” does with their left hand neighbor, from left to right.
Once the dancers get that twirl, the rest of the dance can go pretty smoothly.

*                *

We had a wonderful time with you today!  Keep singing and dancing!


Peter and Mary Alice – October 21, 2017