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Tuesday, October 18, 2005
  Pope Marcellus for the Very Young

As we listen to the Brahms Requiem we should remember the lessons from the Pope Marcellus Mass (which appears in this anthology in two excerpts: Credo and Agnus Dei.) I was reminded of that piece the other day by Helen Radice as she was commenting on Jessica Duchen’s Memory Lane which referred to a wonderful post on Palestrina by David Salvage. In the comments responding to David Salvage’s post I found this interesting comment by Lawrence Dillon:

In a perfect world, everybody (not just musicians) would take a course in 16th-century counterpoint. It requires almost no previous knowledge, and it teaches balance, aesthetic focus, patience and an appreciation for minor miracles.

In a perfect world, 16th-century counterpoint would be put in the required elementary or middle school curriculum, as a discipline that unites art and math studies.

Unfortunately, that will never happen in the world I live in.

My feeling is that it is not unlikely that this could happen in the world Dr. Dillon lives in. In fact, as a general music teacher at a Catholic school, I’ve been hoping to do something like that with my fourth and fifth grade recorder classes this year. The first half of the year we need to work on pitch, tone, and playing together. But, for the second half of the year we are open to taking on some 16th century counterpoint. I don't have a text for this as of yet, but we will see how it develops.

As far as the counterpoint becoming a part of their curriculum in other classes, that is also not impossible. At this school, a Catholic School, that would take some time. It is my observation that the Catholic School approach—and this is only my limited observation—seems to be very compartmentalized. But, other schools not far from us, the Waldorf and Montessori schools for example, I know rely heavily on coordinating lesson plans and prioritize the music curriculum. If they are not already, they may using Palestrina's counterpoint and the Pope Marcellus Mass in their lesson plans for the very young. 
In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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