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Catholic Culture Overview

Catholic Activity: Family Singing



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Singing together will enrich the life of the family. Maria Trapp suggests these simple rounds.


From the very time when the first baby is born, the mother should sing to her child. There are innumerable lullabies, nursery rhymes, and little prayers to be found in songbooks, just waiting to be brought to life. Parents will be astonished at how soon the little ones will carry a tune, and this will lead naturally to singing in parts, with Mummy taking over the second and Daddy later adding the third. Singing is something entirely natural. If only one could cure that horrible phobia we come across so often: "I can't sing — I don't have a piano!" The most beautiful instrument is the human voice, which God gave to everyone.

The radio could provide a valuable education in every household if listening were planned intelligently with the help of the weekly program. But often the radio is turned on early in the morning, to be turned off only after the lights are put out at night. More than once when people invited us to their homes after a concert, I noticed that even before they switched on the light they turned the knob on the radio. It always filled me with awe to see how completely this piece of machinery dominates our homes. Let's turn off the radio so that we may discover our own voices in an evening of song.

From years of experience here in America we know how much fun everybody gets out of singing "rounds"; so let us begin by singing every round first in unison; and when everyone knows the melody well enough to hold his own, in two parts; and later, in three or four — whatever this particular round calls for.

"Rounds" are performed in the following way One singer, or one group of singers, starts out. When the score shows the figure "2," the second singer, or second group, comes in, and so on. One can end rounds in two different ways: (1) Either everyone keeps on singing the melody and repeating it until the leader indicates the time to end and the singers hold the tone marked by a fermata {symbol cannot be used in ASCII text}. (In the notation of rounds this is what fermata stands for.) (2) Or a round may be ended in the same manner it began: by having every part sing their melody twice or three times and then stop, so that the last group to start singing is the last to finish. Most of the time you can use any combination of equal or unequal voices for the singing of rounds. Very soon you will hear these rounds sung throughout the house during dish washing, during housework — wherever there are two or more people in the same room — or in summer while weeding in the garden. Singing rounds is the most natural and easiest way to school the ear for part singing. Here we give a few songs from our summer program which have become favorites in many an American home.

WELCOME, WELCOME! Published in 1849 in Nashville, Tenn., by W. Walker. The "Sacred Nine" in the text are the Nine Muses. Four Parts.

1. Welcome, welcome ev'ry guest, welcome to our music fest,

2. Music is our pleasant cheer, fills both soul and ravished ear.

3. Sacred Nine teach us thy mood, sweetest notes to be explored.

4. Softly fill the evening air; to complete our concert fair!

SI CANTEMO Antonio Caldara, 1670-1736. Three Parts
1. Si cantemo la la la così l'ore ne passerà.

2. La la la, la la la la, la la la la ne passerà. 3. La la la, la la la, la la ne passerà.

THE NIGHTINGALE Pammelia: Musicks Miscellanie, or Mixed Varietie of Pleasant Roundelayes, London, 1609. Three Parts.
1. The nightingale, the merry nightingale, she sweetly sits and sings and sings.

2. The pretty nightingale doe doth trip it to and fro, the wild horse kicks and flings and flings.

3. The cuckoo he doth fly from tree to tree, and merrily through the woods cuckoo, cuckoo sings.

THE MUSICIANS Anonymous. Two Parts.
1. Heaven and earth most surely will perish,

2. Music and Musicians, Music and Musicians, Music and Musicians always we'll cherish.

1. Three geese are sitting near in a barn and without fear.

2. See the farmer's coming with a big stick looming,

3. cries out: Who's here, who's here, who's here?

4. Three geese are sitting near.

QUANDO CONVENIUNT (Gossip Canon) Anonymous. Sing this round as fast as you are able, let every part sing the melody twice and then end. Where there are enough people, a charming effect may be obtained by doubling male and female voices in every part. Do not forget the dynamic contrast between the first and the second line! Four Parts.
Quando conveniunt Catharina, Sibille, Camilla, sermones faciunt vel ab hoc, vel ab hac, vel ab illa.
IF I KNEW Franz Lachner, 1803-1890. Three Parts.
1. If I knew what you know and you knew what I know then I know what you know and you know what I know.

2. Then I know what you know, then I know what you know and you know and you know what I know.

3. If I knew what you know, and you knew what I know, then I know what you know, and you know what I know.

DEATH AND SLEEP J. Haydn. Four Parts.
Death is a long sleep, Sleep is short short and passing death. This doth relieve and that doth heal Life's painful breath. Death is a long long sleep.
THE WISE MEN William Lawes, 1602-1645. Three Parts.
1. The Wise Men were but sev'n, ne'er more shall be fore me: The Muses were but nine, the Worthies three times three. And three merry boys and three merry boys and three merry boys are we.

2. The Virtues they are sev'n. And three the greater be: The Caesars they were twelve And the Fatal Sisters three: And three merry girls and three merry girls and three merry girls are we.

THE ST. MARTIN'S CANON Anonymous, 14th century. From a manuscript of the Monastery in Lambach, Austria. Three Parts.
Martin, dearest Master, now let us all be gay! We would do you honor on this your festal day. The geese are fat and tender, sweet and cool the wine. We'll boil them and we'll fry them and on them richly dine.
NEW OYSTERS Three English Street-Cries combines to a Round. From "Pammelia," 1609. Three Parts.
1. New oysters, new oysters, new oyster, new!

2. Have you any wood to cleave, Have you any wood to cleave, Have you any wood to cleave?

3. What kitchen stuff have you maids, What kitchen stuff have you maids, What kitchen stuff have you maids?

VIA LA MUSICA! Michael Praetorius, 1571-1621. Three Parts.
Viva, viva la musica, viva, viva la musica, viva la musica!
SING HEAVE AND HO William Byrd, called the "Father of English Music," 1543-1623.
Hey ho, to the greenwood now let us go, sing heave and ho, and there shall we find both buck and doe, sing heave and ho, the hart and hind and the little pretty roe, sing heave and ho.
COME, FOLLOW John Hilton, 1599-1657. Three parts.
1. Come follow, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow me!

2. Wither shall I follow, follow, follow, wither shall I follow, follow Thee?

3. To the greenwood, to the greenwood, to the greenwood, greenwood tree!

FLOW GENTLY, SWEET AFTON Text, Robert Burns (1786). Melody, Alexander Hume. If third part is sung by a male voice, read an octave higher.
1. Flow gently sweet Afton, among thy green braes; Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise; My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, Flow gently Afton, disturb not her dream. Thou stockdove whose echo resounds from the hill, Ye wild whistling blackbirds in you thorny dell, Thou green crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear, I charge you disturb not my slumbering fair.

2. Thy crystal stream Afton, how lovely it glides, And winds by the cot where my Mary resides. How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave, As gathering sweet flow'rets, she stems thy clear wave. Flow gently sweet Afton, among thy green braes, Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays; My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

THE ECHO Padre Martini, 1706-1784. Six Parts.
Ho, through the forest hear the echo ring! Back it answers: Tra la la la la la, tra la la, tra la la.
DONA NOBIS PACEM Anonymous. Three parts.
1. Dona nobis pacem, pacem, dona nobis pacem.

2. Dona nobis pacem, dona nobis pacem. 3. Dona nobis pacem, dona nobis pacem.

WHY DOES LIFE Antonio Caldara, 1670-1736. Three parts, Andante.
1. Why does life bring me nothing but sorrow, Since I have met you O sweetheart mine?

2. When I am near you, love does torment me, Far from your presence there's naught but pain.

3. When I am near you, love does torment me, Far from your presence there's naught but pain.

GOOD NIGHT American Round. Three parts. Andante e Legato.
1. Good night to you all and sweet be your sleep!

2. May silence surround you, your slumber be deep!

3. Good night, good night, good night, good night!

Activity Source: Around the Year with the Trapp Family by Maria Augusta Trapp, Pantheon Books Inc., New York, New York, 1955