When M° Enrico Miaroma, head of the Youth and Children’s Voices section of this magazine, proposed me to write for this column, I immediately thought of an idea I often think about (I know it’s utopian, but like it too much): ‘Every Class is a Choir!’ That is…every class could become a Choir. There are the students, the classrooms as a rehearsal room, and so many Choirmasters who are passionate about their subject that they could go into the schools and…and instead nothing or almost nothing.
There are schools in which there is no singing, no playing of instruments and no study of the history of music, such as high schools, unless we are talking specifically about the Liceo Musicale, intended for a few, or the Liceo delle Scienze Umane where music becomes optional in the three years. Yet there are so many benefits of singing in a choir that every time I say to myself, ‘What a waste of opportunity to enrich the youngsters, the children or the little ones.’ I’m not talking about organizing an occasional choir, for example for Christmas or for other events where maybe the whole school gathers to sing a few songs; I’m talking about teaching choral discipline in a structured way and for all classes. The voice is the first instrument that we all have at our disposal and learning to use it correctly, in breathing and emission, does not seem to me a small thing. Everyone can participate in the choral moment as there are no pre-requisites required for example to study an instrument.
And how many possibilities of learning this discipline offers, choir directors know well: reading music, knowing different genres, styles and musical epochs with consequent repercussions and connections with other disciplines. Music is intertwined with literature, painting, theater, history, philosophy. For example, how can one exhaustively treat the Romantic movement without considering the music that was its ideal and sentimental engine? How can one talk about Nietzsche without knowing Wagner? And how can one contextualize an eighteenth-century Venetian painting or a poem by Metastasio without references to Baroque melodrama? And then, but not as a last consideration, singing in a choir makes us feel emotions; collaborating together for a final result equal for all has a wide-ranging educational value and contributes to the development of the whole person. Singing in a choir means socializing, being together, and also ‘relieving’ oneself from the uncomfortable moments that children and adolescents may experience; it facilitates bonds and relationships with classmates, and is an opportunity that not all disciplines favor. We choir conductors also enjoy being with children and young people, and teaching them repays us humanly, not just musically.
In the school where I teach, the choir has often played a fundamental role in keeping students in the music school even after they have stopped playing the instrument they have been studying for years. The passion of ‘singing together’ , which in some cases started in kindergarten, has made them continue to make music as choristers.
I often lead choir projects in the compulsory school, even on a yearly basis, so I have the opportunity to perform quite substantial activities within the classes. Capturing the attention of the students is my first goal and creating in them a curiosity about the choir is the next step. Through vocal activities they experiment and discover their own voice and, little by little, learn to modulate it with more precision. Simple pieces are proposed and memorized with a suitable vocal extension also through the use of scores and movements – gestures-sound and non-sound and preparatory exercises also for the use of small rhythmic-melodic instruments – that accompany the music and sometimes describe it. There is also no lack of basic musical terms typical of the language of music. Other activities, especially in the form of games, concern perception. Listening education is a useful skill for all subjects!
Leonardo Yes! Beethoven No! This was the title of a multimedia event that took place in Trento a few years ago, conceived and organized by Francesco Pisanu, an eclectic musician from Trentino, who proposed to the scholastic institutions of the territory to seriously consider the idea of introducing music in high schools. The show, which included a string quartet, jazz group, vocalist, vocal quintet, and children’s choir, which I directed, the two characters, Leonardo Da Vinci and Ludvig Van Beethoven, wondered why either was excluded from our school system.
The history of art yes, the history of music no! Unfortunately, the exclusion of music has distant roots, in fact it was April 24, 1865 when Francesco De Sanctis, who was minister in 1861, advised his successor, Giuseppe Natoli, not to give importance to superfluous subjects, such as music… Currently, only the secondary school has the privilege of having two hours of music per week in the school curriculum, in elementary school there is no music teacher but music is a subject, intertwined with foreign language, at least in Trentino, while in kindergarten music is left to the goodwill of the teachers. But how important it would be to have, since early childhood, a well-structured and competently proposed approach to music.
And it is true that our country is considered the country of ‘bel canto’; it is since the sixteenth century that Italian musicians go to play and teach music beyond national borders, moreover, our country has given birth to great musicians. Words pertaining to music in many of the world’s languages are in Italian; some indicate musical instruments such as the cello and piano, others indicate genres of music or song such as aria, fantasia, capriccio, fuga, others indicate musical tempos such as adagio, allegro, presto. The words indicating the types of voices in their extension are Italian: soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenore, baritono and basso and finally Guido d’Arezzo in 1000, from the ‘Hymn of St. John’, extrapolated our musical scale. What is happening in other European countries or in the world regarding music in schools? From what I hear and read it seems that they are better off than us. And in conclusion a question, ‘Is there a reason why Every Class shouldn’t become a Choir?’
Annalia Nardelli, born in Trento, Choir Director, Teacher and Composer, studied Main Piano, Singing and graduated in Choral Music and Choir Conducting with Maestro Armando Franceschini at the State Conservatory of Music in Trento. She sang in the Mixed Choir “I Minipolifonici” of Trento for 10 years under the direction of Maestro Nicola Conci. She perfected her choir conducting with various Masters: Nicola Conci first of all and then with Z. Mendicarov and with Roberto Gabbiani and Fosco Corti in Florence-Arezzo in the Professional Courses for Choir Directors of the Region of Tuscany. With Francesco Valdambrini he studied Orchestra Direction for 20th Century Music. In the field of Didactics she attended seminars with various experts in the field. She founded the Choir of White Voices “Under 12” in the suburb of Trento and has performed numerous concerts and made recordings distributed nationwide: “Samba di Natale” and “Spider” for the homonymous Cartoon. She founded the Choir of the ‘University of Time Available’ in Trento, which in the following year grew from 17 elements to over 70 elements. With the Choir of White Voices of the School of Music “I Minipolifonici” of Trento, bequeathed by Maestro Nicola Conci, she held numerous Concerts in Italy and Europe presenting a vast and in May 2019 she also won the first prize at the 6th Competition in Riccione. She proposed and obtained the constitution of the Youth Choir so that it would welcome the students of the white voices who had become great and the vocal experience acquired would not be lost, conducting it in the initial phase and recording the CD “Insieme per Mozart”. The Musical Didactic Approach to Choirs has always been fundamental in order to make the choirs aware of what they are learning. Annalia has taught at the State Conservatory of Music “F.A.Bonporti” in Trento as a teacher of Conducting and Choral Repertoire for Music Didactics and at the Istituto Musicale in Lingua Italiana in Bolzano. She has been a teacher-trainer at the I.P.R.A.S.E (Provincial Institute for Educational Research and Experimentation) for teachers at the Primary School of the Province of Trento and Bolzano, dealing with Vocal and Choral Education for over 10 years, also collaborating in the establishment of a Choral School Library within the Institution available to teachers. She was a lecturer at the University of Trento-Polo di Rovereto as part of the Courses for the introduction of Primary School teachers. For the Federazione Cori del Trentino she holds Courses for the Training of Teachers of all levels and levels and recognised by the MIUR with the project: “A Choir in every School”. For the State Conservatory of Music “L.Campiani” of Mantua and the O.M.I. of Turin (Public Institution that founded the first Public School in Italy) has held Refresher Courses for Teachers, Musicians and Students of Music Teaching, recognized by MIUR and/or with university credits. She directs the Choir of White Voices “I Minipolifonici” of Trento. She teaches Choral Discipline of 8 Choral Groups 4 a Voci Bianche and 4 a Voci Giovanili at the above mentioned School of Music. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)