Page 88 - Voice for Life Songbook 1
P. 88

                                22. Prayer of St Benedict
The text of this song is a paraphrase of a prayer by St Benedict. Benedict was an Italian monk who lived in the sixth century. He founded a monastry in Monte Cassino in Italy that became the roots of the Church’s monastic system. He wrote a Rule to direct his community which focused on prayer and work. This Rule is still followed by many monasteries today.
This song is mainly in 3/4 but there are several changes of time signature in the piece. Go through and identify where these occur so the singers are prepared for them.
There are bars in 2/4 and 4/4 as well as 3/4.To help the singers understand the difference between them and introduce the beat patterns used by the conductor, practise conducting in these different time signatures.
When introducing beat patterns, the singers may find it useful to hold out their left arm across their body at elbow height,with their palm facing down.This forms the base point for their conducting gestures in the right hand. The downbeat of each bar, whatever the time signature, should move from around shoulder height down to make contact with the wrist of the left hand.The upbeat should always return to the starting position.When conducting in two, the right hand should curve slightly to the right after brushing the wrist of the left and then travel back up.When beating three in a bar, the right hand should touch the wrist of the left hand on the downbeat, travel out to the right across the knuckles on the second beat and brush the fingertips on the upbeat. In four, the right hand should make contact with the wrist, elbow, knuckles then fingertips of the left hand.The point at which the right hand makes contact with the left should coincide exactly with the beats in the bar.Travel between the beats should remain steady and fluid.
Once the beating patterns are familiar the singers should take away their left hands but still imagine it is there, so that the downbeat falls in the same place each time and there is no confusion as to which direction each beat travels (avoiding the common problem of beating four in the bar back-to-front).
When the singers can confidently beat in two, three and four, ask them to try to conduct bars 8–12 or 28–34 of this song. Can they move fluidly from one time signature to the other?
Teaching the song
Start by singing the first verse through on an ‘oo’ sound. Encourage your singers to sing legato even when there are wide leaps.Also, make sure that they breathe at the appropriate places even at this stage.When the melody is familiar, sing through verses one and two with the text.You will need to practise placing the final consonants together in bars 12 and 18.You can help by telling the choir on which beat (or half beat) to place the consonant.They will need to count, watch the conductor and listen to each other in order to get it precisely together.
The melody of verse three is identical to the previous verses, with the exception of the last two bars where the rhythm changes.Ask your singers to compare bars 21–22 with bars 31–33 and spot the differences.
Track 22

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