This morning we travelled to the Palace of the Arts (Budapest’s equivalent of the Southbank Centre) to observe a Ringató session, led by Viktória Emese Gáll.
These half hour classes are for children from birth to three years with their parents and grandparents. The intention is not to teach the children but to provide a model for the parents. They create an experience of singing and playing together based on Kodály’s principles. Viktória later explained to our group that the intention is that all the baby need for the session is their parent, so no props such as puppets are used nor are any instruments provided for the children to play. Viktória is not an important person in the baby’s life so she is keen to minimise her being the focus of their attention. Wherever possible the focus of communication must be between parent and child.
The songs and rhymes were either a cappella or accompanied by a traditional stringed instrument (a cobza – see below). 70% of these songs were traditional folk songs with the remaining 30% being composed art songs, always sung in Hungarian even if the original song was sung in a different language.
My initial thought was that this must be a regular group as the parents all joined in the songs and rhymes. However, I later discovered that this was not the case. The parents were able to join in as the vast majority of the songs were those that the parents themselves would have learned when they were growing up. Once the songs were secure, on a number of occasions Viktória added a harmony whilst the parents continued with the tune. At the end of the session the parents were singing traditional two part rounds. It’s amazing what is achievable when the parents were raised within a strong musical tradition; a tradition that is now being instilled in the next generation of Hungarian children.
With each day of this trip, it’s impossible not to compare and contrast early years music provision in Hungary and Britain and to scrutinise my own personal philosophy and practice. I’m excited by what tomorrow’s events may bring.