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Bringing the Romantic (Music) Back: Valentine’s Day

Bringing the Romantic (Music) Back

Our February Romantic music group lesson week is going to be fun one at the studio! To be honest, if I can have an excuse to tweak lessons a bit I am quite happy to change it up. The kids’ eyes light up & they quickly forget that they’re still learning.  

It’s the month of love!

  • Love of learning: both for myself & my students
  • Romantic love: Valentine’s Day
  • Family love: Family Day (Feb. 19 here in Alberta)

So, what better way to celebrate this month than a few activities specially designed to get your students forgetting that they are still learning?

romantic music vs. Romantic Music

John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Tay Tay (Taylor Swift), Camila Cabello, & Adele are names that probably come up for many students when we ask about romantic music. But, THEY aren’t Romantic with a capital R.

If your students want Romance with a capital R, they will need to look to:

  • Ludwig van Beethoven (wrote in both Classical & Romantic eras)
  • Richard Wagner
  • Fr├ęderic Chopin
  • Robert Schumann
  • Felix Mendelssohn
  • Franz Liszt (a rock star in his time)
  • Johannes Brahms
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Gustav Mahler
  • Sergei Rachmaninov (wrote in both Romantic & 20th century)

What a great opportunity to talk about the characteristics that make this music so … well, romantic! And, how that relates to the romantic music we listen to now.  Doing a Romantic music group lesson focused on Romantic music works fantastic to hear this distinction.

Romantic Music: What is it?

The thing I tell my students is that musical eras weren’t created at the time. No one said, “Oh, well this music is part of the Romantic era. Can’t you tell?” It wasn’t until much later that someone (usually several someones) realized that the music within a particular set of years shared common characteristics.

For the Romantic era (roughly 1830 – 1900) it was all about breaking free from the rules of the Classical era that came before it. Forget about following a bunch of stuffy rules. It was all about expressing emotion (or dare we say on occasion angst) & showing individuality.  Hmm. That sounds a lot like my teen students.

For a quick overview of what the Romantic era was all about, watch Classical FM’s Fast & Friendly Guide to the Romantic Era.

(I’ve have quickly become a fan of Classical FM’s “Fast & Friendly Guides to …”.  I am hoping you will as well.)

The Terms of the Times

Every era has vocabulary that is unique to that time.  Quizlet has several Romantic Era study sets already to go.  For our Romantic music group lesson, we went through these terms & my students saw some of these popping up in the activities we did in private lessons next week!

Listening … instead of worksheets

One thing that my students really loved was hearing examples of various terms & styles.  A few of the terms we covered in group lesson were:

  • Berceuse:  Thankfully, I have been working on a Berceuse so I could play an example.  My students enjoyed talking about the characteristics of the piece, especially the sound of a rocking cradle.
  • Etude:  When I showed them the Etude I am working on, I asked them to tell me what technical element was being practiced in the song.  Once they got past all the notes, they realized it was very much about scales & octaves (kind of like our scales challenge from the beginning of the school year).
  • Rubato:  First, I showed them a steady tempo by conducting (I kept it simple with just moving my arm up & down).  Next, I sang the first part of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star with notes landing ON the beat.  Lastly, I sang the same section with rubato & asked them to watch where the notes landed in relation to the beat.

Make it memorable

To end our Romantic music group lesson, we played Kahoot to review the terms.  Because it was a short period of time, I opted to simplify things. They saw the definition first, followed by 2 options for the name of the term.

Some of the options I gave were:

  • “Theme played at half the original speed”: Sheldon-the-Turtle speed vs. augmentation
    • Sheldon is a tortoise at the the Calgary Zoo that goes for walks every day.  Since almost all of my students have met him at some point in their lives, we talk about Sheldon quite a bit … including how fast they should play if it is Sheldon-going-up-the-stairs-slow (Hint:  it’s super slow).
  • “Theme played at twice the original speed”: Road Runner speed vs. diminution
    • Funny story:  I could NOT pronounce diminution for the life of me during group lesson.  But, we all had fun trying to get the accent in the right spot!
  • “No line repeated”: A hard song vs. through composed
    • We focus on patterns a LOT in our music, so the idea of having no repeating lines was something my younger students thought would be especially hard to play.  Some of my teens liked that it was similar to a stream of consciousness poem.
  • “Art form with music & bodily movements combined.”:  So You Think You Can Dance vs. Ballet
  • “Leading motive”: Star Wars songs vs. Leitmotiv
    • We heard how Anakin Skywalker’s journey to Darth Vader has similar elements in each of their themes (though the similarities show up towards the end of Anakin’s theme).

Make it accessible!

Make music vocabulary accessible to students by letting them:

  • See it in action
  • Hear examples
  • Try it out
  • Use definitions that tie in with what they already know or are interested in.

Bringing the Romance Back to Lessons

What will you be doing in your studio this next week to bring back the Romance?

Perhaps it will be some music history, active listening, or theory worksheets.  Whatever it might be, have fun!  And, don’t forget to enjoy those cinnamon hearts!

For a fun end to your week, here is a video clip that had my students & I picking our jaws off the floor!  It’s Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” in a whole new way.

Have a great weekend!

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