I suppose my own Irish heritage predisposes me to being super excited about Celtic music, but I still think it's a fun genre to explore with kids regardless! The style of music is very different than a lot of what children hear on a regular basis. With it's unique instrumentation, driving 6/8 feel and the corresponding cultural aspects that come with it, Celtic music is such a rich style of music to study. It allows for a lot of new sounds and experiences for early learners!
As with most genres I introduce in Music U, I like to start by going over what instruments make up the sound of that genre. For Celtic music, we learn about the harp, accordion, bodhran drum, Irish Tin Whistle, fiddle and flute. I show them images, and then I like to show them videos of people playing these instruments in the Celtic style. This allows the children to see how the instrument is played. It also can help them see that perhaps instruments we have seen and learned about in other genres are producing a completely different sound or feel in this particular style. Each week I will review the names of these instruments so that by the end, the children know all the names by looking at the instrument without any help from me! I also like to try to bring in a guest musician that plays one of the instruments we've talked about so they can experience it first hand! I lined up a flute player for this month, but he had to postpone, so we will experience that a little later! I did however manage to get my husband to come play a few Irish folk tunes on our tin whistle!
I think Irish dancing is amazing. From a purely entertainment standpoint, I thinks it's pretty incredible what Irish dancers can do with their feet! They are creating intricate, triplet based rhythms.... with their feet! So, I find it essential to show the children this amazing dance style that is unique to Celtic music. I show the children a few videos, they are typically pretty mesmerized by it all, then we give it a shot ourselves! I love to point out that the dancers don't move their arms much, an do a lot of quick work with their feet, and occasionally some leaps and jumps. It's fun to watch the children listen to the music, express themselves through dance, and use the template of Irish dancing they have just observed to create their movements. And, it's actually quite impressive what they can pick up on! It gives them a way to feel that dominant 6/8 feel even if they don't exactly know what that is. It's different, and they are aware of it.
Lastly, we busted out the rhythm sticks and tapped along to some upbeat Celtic tunes. Rhythm sticks are always a good idea because it just helps them in so many ways beyond what you might be working on in the moment. We try to stay on a beat, and while that's tricky for these little ones, it helps to hear a constant beat coming from the teacher over and over again so that eventually they catch on. Studies have shown that rhythm play and singing in percussive phrases can help children be better readers and communicators later on!
So here's to Celtic music and all it has to offer! We had a blast this past month!