A Festival of Lights: Performance-Based Learning through Multicultural Music

  • 2022
  • Middle School
  • Primary
Melody Chiang, Junior Grade 1-Grade 4 Music Teacher & MS Choir Instructor; Tom Stroud, Grade 5-Grade 8 Band Instructor

THS celebrates our Winter Concert “A Festival of Lights” each year to lift people’s spirits and remind us to be ever-hopeful and resilient. Music is an intrinsic part of gatherings, festivals and belief systems. Sound and rhythm patterns give a particular perspective into an individual’s opinions of the culture and social issues of the times. 

This year, we continue that tradition by joining our community during our Festival of Lights in a hybrid setting: a virtual live viewing of pre-recorded music videos for families in Junior Grade 1 - Grade 4 and an on-site concert at the Grove for families in Grade 5 - Grade 8. The music department would like to thank all parents, teachers and students for supporting one of the school’s big projects, from costume preparation, rehearsals and recording schedules to planning, logistics and technical support. 

As an international school, learning about cultures encourages independent thinking, which is critical when learning about other cultures. Music itself reveals how world culture influences our life. The emergence of different kinds of music symbolizes diversity in our life, as in music there are no bounds. It is all about creating and sharing of joy and appreciation. 

All students from Junior Grade 1 to Grade 8 were performing different cultures and music from around the world. The music department determined and assigned the repertoire for each grade level. Instructions on songs and/or dances began in music classes through eight weeks of intensive rehearsals. Each grade was introduced to the importance of the festival and celebration, its roots and the importance of its heritage and history. 

Table below provides a brief overview of the festivals we celebrate:

Photo for each grade performance with google link attached

Junior Grade 1 performing the Malay dance from Malaysia. They learned the Malay greeting “Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri” and the practices of Ramadan and Hari Raya.

Our Grade 1 singers celebrate Saint Lucia day from Sweden. They sang the Swedish lyrics beautifully and understood that this was a Christian feast day to honor the legend of Saint Lucia bringing food to Christians hiding in Roman catacombs, lighting her way with a candle lit wreath on her head.

Grade 2 young musicians celebrate Thanksgiving days from the United States. They developed ensemble skills by singing and playing the Orff instruments.

Grade 3 performing Chinese drumming to celebrate Chinese festivals. They learned different drumming techniques and roles of drums in ancient China and modern days.

4th graders performing the Maypole dance which is believed to have started in Roman Britain to celebrate the arrival of spring. Dancing around the Maypole represents good health and brings luck to the crops.

The 5th Grade Band class performing: “Mary Had a Baby Boy”, “Good King Wenceslas”, and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”.

The 6th Grade Band class performing: “Jingle Sorta Bells”, “Santa, Santa” and “Sleigh Bells Ride”.

MS/HS Band performing: “Band on the Housetop”, “The Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night”, and “Ru-Ru-Rudolph”.

MS Choir performing songs from Japan “Hamabe No Uta” and “Muramatsuri”. They developed choir singing skills singing in two parts and performing skills to sing expressively to deliver the message of songs.

We aimed to develop students’ musical skills and knowledge, as well as understand the background of the festival they learned while achieving teamwork spirit with peers to put up a performance. Despite all our challenges, such as the super tight schedule and skills differentiation among students, we gradually developed some essential skills in their learning process. Performance-based learning was involved in encouraging students to participate in tasks or activities that are meaningful and engaging. It provides opportunities for students to apply knowledge, practice skills, and develop independent and collaborative work habits.

Alongside the “concrete” successes in creating this musical production and group performances, we can also consider the following intrinsic values of music and its inclusion in the school curriculum: a sense of belonging, creativity and expression, collaboration, teamwork and accountability, perseverance, mental and physical acuity, and building life skills.

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