Music-based lesson in Firstday School

In spring 2008, I taught a Firstday School lesson that involved playing recordings of music having a spiritual theme and wildly different styles.

I asked the students to listen, then to comment on how they felt and what they thought of when they heard it. There were seven children, ranging from six to 11. It was too big of an age range.

The two 11-year-old girls loved this lesson. They were very engaged, and they really enjoyed listening and then commenting. They had a rich variety of observations to share.

The 10- and 11-year-old boys did not show much interest. One of them (fortunately not my own) kept reaching for his book to read, until I put it out of reach. The same boy mostly said he didn't like the songs, but he couldn't or wouldn't articulate why not.

One six year old boy was just too hyper for this lesson. I spent a fair amount of the time following him around to get him to put things down. I encouraged dancing to the music (don't let the ancient Quakers know), but it wasn't enough to engage him. The other six year olds, a girl and a boy, seemed content just to listen. The girl got her hair braided by one of the 11-year-olds, and she (the 6-y.o.) was surely in heaven about that.

I played the songs on a boombox with CD and cassette. I left my own at home despite having pulled it out of the closet and left it near the door. Fortunately, I called someone who lives near the meetinghouse, and she had not left yet and she did indeed have such a boombox. So I was saved by the community -- thank you, God, for your manna!

Here is the list of songs I chose:
Ensemble Project Ars Nova, "Lucis Angeli" (medieval polyphony)
Anonymous 4, "Jewett" and "New Britain" (two very different versions of "Amazing Grace" from the American Angels CD)
U2, "Yahweh"
Godspell, "Prepare Ye" (from a tape I made of the original vinyl album I have from the early 1970s!)
Reading of the passage in Isaiah 40, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord..."
Lisa Gerrard, "Abwoon" (an atmospheric rendition of the Lord's Prayer in ARAMAIC!, from a solo CD by the Dead Can Dance'r)
Moby, "God Moving Over the Face of the Water"
Reading of the beginning of Genesis, the source of the image for the song title
Incredible String Band, "The Mountain of God" (very postmodern in that it combines snippets of lyrics from hymns as well as a glancing reference to Christopher Robin)
Five Blind Boys of Alabama, "This May Be the Last Time" (this upbeat R&B gospel song was the most popular of the set, by far)
Willie Nelson, "Uncloudy Day"
Carin Anderson, "Instrument" -- from a lovely album by a member of San Francisco Monthly Meeting, now living in southern Arizona, the song is a prayer to "Make me an instrument."

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