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Chorus Studies Cultures Through Music

Esther So, a foreign exhange student from Korea, plays the flute in "Arirang," a Korean folk song at the Cuthbertson Cluster International Festival.

“The sorrows in my heart are as many as the stars in the sky." This mournful line comes from “Arirang” a popular Korean folk song recently performed by the CHS Chorus. The chorus, directed by Ms. Janet Hall, has been busy this semester learning and performing songs from around the globe. The chorus consists of 38 students in grades 9-12. They have performed at Cuthbertson Middle School and the Cuthbertson Cluster International Festival. They traveled to Butler High School for the MPA - Music Performance Adjudication. There they competed at the honors level. The students had to sing two songs from memory in front of a judge and other performing groups. They received a superior rating! 

According to Ms. Hall, the Chorus curriculum at the honors level has to meet proficient or advanced requirements. One of these objectives is to understand global interdisciplinary and 21st century connections with music and understand the relationship between music and concepts of other areas in the world.

“Singing in other languages and understanding the text and subject matter of each song helps us understand other cultures,” said Ms. Hall.

One of the songs they studied and performed is “Arirang,” a Korean folk song.

“Arirang is the most well-known folk song in Korea (both north and south). The literal words tell a story but the song has a deeper meaning for Koreans. It signifies pride of country. Our Korean exchange student, Esther So, has educated us on the background of this song and helped us with correct pronunciation of the language. She also accompanied us on the flute for Arirang!” said Ms. Hall.

“Arirang” – (Korean folk song) Arranged by Paul Basler
Walking over the peak at Arirang,
You left me behind.
You will be tired before you reach one mile.
Walking over the peak at Arirang,
The sorrows in my heart
Are as many as the stars in the sky.

Another song they have studied and performed is “Furaha!” a joyous and rhythmic Swahili song.

“In Furaha! we sing both the Swahili words and the English translation so that the performers as well as the audience can understand the message of the song. We incorporate movement and rhythms typical of African style music,” said Ms. Hall.

Special instruments in Furaha! included African maracas and a cajón, a box-shaped percussion instrument.

“Furaha!” (Joy! – Swahili song) Words and music by Sally Albrecht
Tunakutakia furaha kila siku (We wish you joy each and every day)
Imbiana (Sing together)

“Incorporating global music in the chorus classroom on a daily basis not only expands the students’ musical knowledge and skills, but also contributes to their understanding and appreciation of different cultures. A country’s culture is inherent in their native music. Participating in such music expands the students’ global understanding on a very deep level - both emotionally and intellectually,” said Ms. Hall.

Written by: Paula White
Posted: Apr 11, 2014 by Paula White

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