Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 63. I’m Debbie O’Shea and this is the second part of my chat with Jenny Moon, her nuggets of fabulous are truly nuggets of fabulous. I think you’ll love them. And her advice around advocacy, you will also find very informative. Enjoy part two of Jenny Moon.
About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript of episode 063 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Jenny Moon’s Favourite Choral Pieces
Okay, choral pieces, because people who are listening who take choirs, they’re going, Oh, I wonder what Jenny’s favourite pieces are? Because I’m sure like your favourite pieces would change, obviously. And when you get to work on something, get to know it and love it. But would you have just some general pieces that are your go to?
My favourite choral pieces are the pieces that I’m working on at moment. And I love all the choices that I make. Because I make that a point. If I don’t love it, I don’t really work it with my choirs, I have to find something in it that I love. They’re my favourite pieces at the moment because I explore them.
And the more I explore the phrasing and the text and the nuances and how I can make it more beautiful, and how we can shape it together and how we make it music. That’s why it’s my favourite. And there are pieces, I will come back to, you know, that I’ve done before. And then you go to this piece. Interestingly enough, quite often I’ll do something completely different with it, you know, and I go, Oh, you know, I’m going to explore this in a different tempo, or I’m going to phrase it differently, and then I go, Oh, I wish I’d have done that first time, you know, that. I’ve grown as a musician, I’ve grown and I’ve learned and I’ve developed different ideas and skills, etc.
So yeah, I think my favourite pieces are the ones I’m working on. I think if I had to say my favourite choral work it is probably Faure’s Requiem for me. That’s it. And I’ve always said for a long, long time, I really hope that a choir will come and sing that at my funeral. I will say that, but it was something that I performed. And as soon as I performed, and I just was like, wow.
Did you conduct it or sing in it?
No, no, no, I sang in it. I sang in it when I was at The Con and I just was like, Oh, this I love this. I loved it. And so I think I had to say, it’s probably my favourite choral work. But yeah, I love lots and lots of different styles of choral music, lots, but there’s always a moment where I go, yeah, that’s my moment. That’s why I love it, there’ll be something in it.
And that’s why I choose to do it. And I think that’s really important. Because if I don’t love it, the kids are gonna know that I don’t love it, you know, and it can be just a 16 bar unison piece that I just go, Oh, that is so fun. I love that I can have so much fun with that, or I can’t wait to just introduce that beautiful interval to them. Or it can be you know, when I was traveling to France with kids to do the Anzac services.
I’ll never forget, Steven Paulus’s The Road Home. And because I was searching for music that we could sing in the pre service and at churches, etc. It just was a moment of I have to do this piece with these young people. It’s just it was just something that I was like, Yeah, I’ve got to do it, you know. And it just resonated with me at the time because it had the context of where I was going and I wanted the kids to relate to it. And because they were going to be singing it at a dawn service on the Western Front.
I just knew that we could tap into it and we could connect, because that’s the thing with choral music. You have to get the connection. Because we’re the only instrumentalists that get text, we get words we’re so lucky. So yeah, I haven’t I’m sorry that I haven’t got my favourite, my top 10 but yeah, I think that’s the thing if you love it and you think there’s something in there that you can connect with your choristers then do it.
I think that’s more valuable than a top 10 I think what you said is very profound.
Thanks and there’s always my favourite choirs. You know, I’ve got favourite choirs.
Oh I never thought to ask that.
I see what they’re doing, you know.
You keep and eye on them.
I subscribe to their YouTube’s you know, and you go I wonder what they’re doing. I mean, it’s been a bit. It’s been a bit quiet in the last few years can I tell you? But um, yeah, I love YouTube. I love YouTube because you go, Oh, I wonder what they did in their last tour? Or, you know, so? Yeah.
YouTube can be really interesting to see how other conductors have interpreted pieces.
Yeah for sure and I think it’s a really valuable tool for musicians to be able to go and say, Look, you know, I’ve got a score in front of me, but it’s, you know, it’s got a list of divisi and everything and, you know, I wonder what it sounds like in a church or in a big auditorium or, you know, oh, my goodness Rollo Dillworth has like 400 people in front of him and this piece sounds fantastic.
And then you listen to the same piece, and it’s only got 16 and you go, Okay, well hang on a minute. It’s learning those sorts of things for people who are, not even just starting out, but if you just go, you suddenly hear and you go, yeah, it’s brilliant with 400 but Yeah, I can’t pull that off. I’m not going to pull that off to the same extent with a with a group of 16 singers.
Jenny Moon’s Thoughts on Australia and Australian Composers
Love it. Great information and thoughts. I love that. Composers you were talking about earlier, I think in your bio, you even talked about promoting Australian, that you love Australian music.
It’s really important, because it is tough to make a living as an Australian composer.
Absolutely it is.
So tell us again, about composers and Australian composers particularly, what are your thoughts?
I believe that we have the best composers in the world. I think we are so lucky, we are so incredibly lucky. And why do I love Australian composers so much? I love them because they are writing from a place of being an Australian. And when you’re talking text, and you’re talking about what our choristers are experiencing and what they’re doing, then that’s really, really important to me. It’s important to me that, you know, that our kids know about the Emu War, you know, Kath Ruhle wrote about the Emu War. You know, it’s like we need to teach our kids about that.
Well we do. Can I say, I didn’t know about the Emu War.
Neither did I.
Until Kath Ruhle’s composition? And I’m going what an amazing story. Can I say? Just from my point of view, one of the things that I think Australian composers have is that warning I’m going to do a bit of a generalisation alert here. But I believe many of them are great storytellers.
Yes, I agree with you. I think they’re fantastic storytellers. And they get the whole thing about making it relevant. And we’re so isolated, we’re very isolated. Here we have a tradition, chorally, where a European tradition, right, you know, but singing about snow in winter, at Christmas time is not relevant to us. And I think particularly with young children, particularly, it’s important that we ground them in the Australian landscape. And that’s where we live. If we’re going to talk about music being relevant. And if we’re going to talk about making sure that our children are singing within context, it’s really important that it’s about where they live and our history.
And you know, we’re just so lucky, we are so lucky to have brilliant composers, I admire every single one of them. Because as you say, it’s a very difficult way of earning a living, but you’re just, you know, I look around and see new composers all of the time. And I hope that we keep encouraging new composers, because it’s very important. And yeah, I love exploring anything that any composer will throw my way. I think we’re just really lucky and why go elsewhere when you’ve got brilliance on your doorstep? I mean, I think it’s really important.
There are things in the choral canon that you do need to say, you know, I do want my high school choir to learn Mozart’s Ave Verum, I think that’s important. I think it’s important that we sing, you know, music of different genres and different languages. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, we have to because that’s part of being inclusive.
And we have to understand everybody’s traditions, we d,o and I’m not saying that we disregard that. It’s a very important part because also, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are educating our choristers in different genres and different languages and different musical idioms and large works and small works.
But I think I’m talking from my educator’s hat here now when I’m talking about school children, primary and even secondary, that it’s important to make sure that we’re not discounting what we’ve got right under our nose, you know, yeah, I’m very passionate about Australian composition. And it’s great writing.
Could not agree more. Very powerful. I believe you’ve started dabbling a little yourself.
Jenny Moon’s Experience with Musical Composing
Yeah, dabbling is the word, dabbling is the word. Yeah. So this is very confronting, you know, trying to compose, it came out of, look, I haven’t got a lot of compositions, they’re all unison. At the moment I’m just writing unison music. And it’s all pretty much P-3, because I see a real demand for, you know, good unison music that is relevant to our kids.
A couple of years ago a gecko fell on my head one night while I was having dinner, like it literally fell on my head, and it just slid down. And I don’t like geckos. And a colleague had sort of said to me, you know, Jen, my grade twos and grade threes are ripping through the repertoire, like they’re just going through repertoire. I can’t keep up this was at the school that I was at and please, please, I need some more. I need some more.
I’m like, Oh, my goodness, I need to come up with something. So the gecko had fallen on my head on the Friday night. And on Saturday morning, I got up and I thought, right, you’re gonna have to write a song because you know, Nerida needs a piece this week. So what are you gonna do? You just gonna have to write something. So I wrote Mr. Gecko and she was like, I love it, it’s great. And it was from personal experience. So I wrote a couple of more things that you know, same situation where she’d come to me and say, I can’t find a piece for the storybook day, I can’t find something.
Can you just write something for storybook day for me, please. And you know, I’ll do 45 minutes of your marking if you go and write me something. I’m like, deal. So anyway. So yeah, I’ve dabbled a little bit. And I’ve just written something for Deb Daley. Actually, Deb Daley wanted to, she said, Can you please write me something that I can use with a parachute? Jen?
Oh, okay. You’ll have to share?
Yeah. And she said, Can you write me something? I said, Okay. All right. Yeah, I can do that Deb. Deb’s amazing, I call her St. Deb, by the way, because what she does with those kids is incredible. I could never do it. So I had to go and write something because Deb needed it, you know, and so I put my head down and went, alright, let’s go. So yeah, so I’ve started to dabble in that. And, you know, I reached out to some people. I’ve got a few colleagues who, Hey, can you give me some hand with this text? This is kind of the idea I want. But I don’t want complete sentences. And here’s a couple of ideas.
And what do you think and you know, Josh got back to me, Josh helped me write the words for Little Waves and said, Hey, what do you think of this? I’m like Love it, let’s go with that. And I’ve just written another piece, actually, for our Young Voices. We’ve got a Young Voices Festival coming up in June, we’ve reignited our Young Voices Festival. So we couldn’t find a massed piece.
And I said, Okay, I’ll just have a go of writing something. So I wrote that. And then I went to Katie Littlewood and said, right, Katie, how do you feel about writing a piano accompaniment for me, you know, and she’s like, Sure, love to. So that’s been fun, too, is reaching out and saying, Well, here’s what I want and like, you know, you’re a great piano accompanist and musician, do you want to have a go at doing this? And Kate said, yeah, and going to Josh and saying, Hey, Josh, you love writing text and I’m not great at writing text, but I’ve got an idea of what I want to do. Will you have a play at this? Yeah, sure.
And so I love that part, too, of collaborating and saying to people, you know, let’s, let’s try and do this. So that’s been fun. And I get bored a bit, easily and quickly, Deb sometimes, and I get to that point where I go, alright, let’s keep moving, that sort of thing. So I’m like, it’s a small portfolio of compositions, but it’s something that I’m having fun with. So time will tell. Time will tell if that goes any further.
The best musicians have to write music for the youngest children. I think that some people make the mistake of saying it’s just for little kids that’s easy to do. No, it’s not easy. And a beautiful unison melody is just as difficult as writing, you know, six part harmony. I really think that beautiful unison for young children, like you’ve actually chosen something quite difficult to do. But important.
You have to really think about it, you have to really think about what is important. And you know, where sits. And, and that’s why I was kind of when I wrote Little Waves, I said to Josh, I don’t want sentences, I don’t want long sentences, I just want little ideas because Deb wanted the parachute and the things that the parachute can do and hiding under it. So we’ve got a line in there about, you know, hiding under a shell and the storm comes and all sorts of things. Because when I was like, What am I going to write about a parachute? And then I actually decided I’d write about waves instead. And the parachute would work in with beautiful waves and a storm and all sorts of things.
But um, it is tricky. It is really tricky. Because you have to think, are they going to be able to do this, can I put in something there, that’s just going to extend what they might be able to do, but not make it so that, you know, it becomes frustrating for the conductor to try and you know, you’ve got to think about it really carefully, because you want it to be successful. And within their grasp because of the age. So yeah, it’s fun. It is fun. But anyway, watch this space.
I think that’s gonna be amazing. I’m looking forward to that. I’m going to I’m going to write that down to explore Jenny’s pieces. That sounds fabulous. We’re looking forward to that. All right, we are now getting up to the nuggets of fabulous.
Jenny Moon’s Nuggets of Fabulous
The nuggets of fabulous. All right. Well, look, my nuggets of fabulous. I think for me, we touched on this before about being flexible. So my nuggets of fabulous from my point of view, from being a workshop presenter and being a conductor, learn to read your room, you need to learn to read the room. It’s a skill, but it’s very important, because we need to engage with our choristers, and we need to engage with our students. And being able to see where they’re at, at a particular time for me is really important. I need to read their energy, I need to see, you know when you get to a point where you think you’ve got to let this go, you actually have to let it go. Sometimes you’ve got to just let go.
Don’t flog the dead horse, don’t flog the dead horse.
That’s exactly right. And so by doing that, you have to go in with a level of flexibility. And being flexible is also something that comes with experience, doesn’t it really? Because I think when you’re a first year teacher, you’re so worried about, how long have I got and I’ve got to teach this much and I’ve got to get them ready for this exam. And I’ve got to cater for this differentiated learning at the start, like you’re just so I think locked in. That’s the word for it.
Because you feel you’ve got to stick to a plan. And I think it’s also confidence you also when you get more confident about your own ability and knowing that it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay. Nothing’s going to be that diabolical. You know, we’ve all had situations where things have gone off the rails in a performance like so be it, that’s what happens.
That’s music, but I think reading your rehearsal or reading the room, reading what’s there and being able to adapt and being flexible. I think that’s very important. keeping it fresh is very important. When I start to feel that I’m not feeling it. I’m like, Oh man, I’ve got to write my warm ups now, for tonight. And I’m just like, oh, that I actually go and look for something new. Go and look for something new. Go and dig out my red book, I’ve got a red book. I’ve got a little red book of all these little warm ups and games and sort of things that I’ve gathered over the years from different people. Or I jump on YouTube, or I you know, I’m so lucky.
I work with Justine Favell twice a week. Beautiful. How lucky am I my partner in crime is is Justine and you know, she’s so brilliant. She’s just so brilliant. There’s another blessing I have in my life is working with Jay but you know, I’ll go to Jay, Jay, will you do the warm ups tonight? And she goes Sure no problem you know, and I watch what Jay brings and just go oh my goodness, you know she just comes up with the most incredible things. And so you’ve got to keep fresh, you’ve got to be excited about it.
You know, I love introducing a new warmup. It’s fun. And I think that’s important. You’ve got to find some fun in it. So yeah, I think they’re my nuggets. I think it’s, if you love it, and you’re excited about it, then your kids will love it too because they’ll see your excitement. You might have to convince some of the older, some of my teenagers it takes a little bit when I go and do something a little bit that they go, Oh, I’m a bit too cool for school for that. And I go, No, you’re not. You’re not too cool. Just do it and they actually do it. And they go, yeah, that was fun. That actually was, you know, you’re never too old to play To Stop the Train or, you know, do This Old Man.
We’re never too old to do that. So I think that’s it, my nuggets would be read the room, be prepared to change it up. So be flexible. Keep it fresh and have fun. And I think if you do that, you’ve got success, because you’re engaging. And you feel good. Yeah, they’re my nuggets.
I love your nuggets. Okay, I’m going to steer us to advocacy.
Jenny Moon’s Thoughts on Musical Advocacy
Yes, very important.
It’s vital. And we just need to do more of it, all of us. So what sort of advice do you have for us? So it could be specifically about singing in choir if you wish, or it could be more broader for music educators, whatever ideas or anyone working in this field? Do you have some suggestions to help us around advocacy?
Yes, I do. I think it’s really, really important that we know what we’re talking about. I think it’s important that we can substantiate any conversation that we have. And you know, we’re so incredibly lucky to have Dr. Anita Collins. We had Richard Gill, now we’ve got Anita who provides, if you don’t follow Anita and Bigger Better Brains on social media anyone who’s listening, you need to do it straightaway, get onto their newsletter list, because they give nuggets all the time, little, you know, substantiated research articles, ways to just get people to understand how important music is, you know, singing is our first language.
Say that to people and they look at you. Talk about the statistics of the extraordinary things that happen when when people are suffering from dementia or stroke, yet they can sing and remember things that they learnt from an early age, you know, so I think it’s important to be able to substantiate what you’re going to talk about, and the research is all there.
So read it, read it and grab it. I also believe, I think there’s, you know, we’ve got people who are saying and advocating for us through research and, and general education, but we’ve got parents, and principals and other teachers right here, every time they walk into one of our concerts or one of our rehearsals.
So my thing would be make them do it, get them to do it, get them to come to a rehearsal and do some warm ups where the kids are doing coordination. And, you know, and say, Would you like to come to a rehearsal in the morning? How good did you feel after that? Do this warm up with us, when you have a concert, get the parents to do a warm up or teach them a sing along or something fun? I know that can be frightening. I know it can be frightening.
But wherever I can, I always try to involve the audience into understanding what their children are doing. And I don’t necessarily go down the talking. Do you know that when your child comes this is the parts of the brain that they’re using? Did I just go on your feet, let’s go let’s sing let’s do this, let’s do this activity or, you know, and get them to do it. And I know you’ll feel resistance. But if you feel brave enough, you can, you know, I’ll sometimes say See, I’ve got a couple of non believers out there. Come on, let’s go and, you know, Do I need to get the house lights up on you? In a little bit of jest. But you know, I always think that it’s coming from a place that they feel uncomfortable, and you’ve got to make them feel comfortable.
So my advocacy as a choral conductor is to involve people in the doing, get them to sing, get them to have fun. Tell them that you’ve had these children for a day’s workshop and by the way, they’ve learnt four new pieces and this is what they’ve done today. That’s pretty incredible. And I always say to my kids, do you realise how what you’ve just done in this 45 minutes has been this, this, this, this, this?
And if anyone tells you that singing is, you know, boring or it’s you know, singings not work, hang on a minute actually. It’s a physical workout and a mental workout and an intellectual workout and a coordination workout. And these are the skills and I have to know what I’m singing, what words, what’s the rhythm, my ear has to say it’s out of tune. My brain has to fix it. I’ve got to put movement with it. I’ve got to know what the person next to me is doing. We’ve all got to do the same thing at the same time.
All of these things are going on in a song so don’t forget that all of these skills, guys, you’re bringing to my room every time you sing so you’re having just a big a workout as a soccer game or, you know, playing chess or, you know, I never try to be divisive in what I’m doing. I don’t say this one thing is better, but I’m just educating them. Because they’ll just think we’re coming and singing. Unless we say, No, it’s not just the singing, it’s actually not just the singing, it’s all of these things around it.
And by the way, there’s also the community. Maybe that person next to in choir is your buddy in the playground, or when you’re walking, you know, this is the thing I used to love, is that whole community, you’re empathising and you’re relating, and you’re, you know, you’re learning about another culture, because the person next to you has come from a different background or whatever. Well, we learn that when we’re in a choir and an ensemble.
So I think for me that advocacy is what can I do to get others to do what we do, so they can understand it and feel it and understand why their kid comes bouncing out of the room after choir or why they’ve jumped off the stage at the end of a concert, so proud of themselves and so excited the parents go I understand because I felt but a little bit of that joy and accomplishment, you know, so yeah, I think that’s my tip for advocacy as musicians and choristers, if you can do it, do it and be great.
Thank you. That’s a great tip. And all of us at some point have some sort of concerts don’t we?
I think that’s fabulous. And we’re coming to the end. Even though I think there’s been so many powerful things you’ve already said, I still like to finish with a chance for you to get on your soapbox and tell the world something that you think is really important to say.
Jenny Moon’s Soapbox
Yeah, I think we’ve touched on it. Don’t ever stop learning. Don’t ever stop grabbing ideas, advice from anyone. My whole life I feel like I’ve just been influenced by so many people. And I’m still in awe of so many people that I just, I think if you can just always keep your mind very open to learning, just learning, learning, learning and ask people for help. Ask them for guidance, you know, email someone and say, hey, look, you know, I’m just wondering, I’m having a little bit of difficulty with something. Can you help me? Having people come in and, like, you know, I love people coming and listening to my rehearsals and saying Did you hear that? Or did you hear that?
You know, and coming in with a different perspective, they’re coming in cold and you’ve worked the same piece for ages and they hear something completely different and say, Hey, did you there’s something not quite right there or whatever. I love that. You know, some people will probably find that a little bit confronting. I love people coming in and hearing and giving suggestions and ideas and things like that. So yeah, I think that’s it. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Don’t ever be closed to other ideas or just keep learning, keep learning, learning learning. That’s my biggest thing I think.
I love that. And Jenny Moon it has been a delight. Thank you so much for speaking to us.
No, thank you for asking me to talk with you. It’s been great.
We have a lot to learn from you, we absolutely have and you’re generous enough to share. So thank you, and until next time farewell.
My pleasure Deb. Bye, enjoy the last part of your holiday.
Thanks. I appreciate you and all of my colleagues, and hope this episode has been enjoyable and useful. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au. I’d love a share rate or review to help other music educators find this podcast. All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye.
This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education connecting supporting and inspiring music educators. In the show notes you’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member, for a low annual fee you can access hundreds of files worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops and webinars and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.
Just for Laughs
As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.
I used to have a fear of hurdles.
But I got over it.
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Jenny’s Favorite Choral Piece – Faure Requiem
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