Getting Started

By Pat Brown
Reprinted from The Orff Echo, Summer 1987

The end of summer brings forth a crop of new Orff Schulwerk teachers, fairly exploding with enthusiasm, energy, and new ideas, eager to get to work with their students. This column will offer suggestions for materials which experienced teachers have found to be valuable.

Basic for every Orff Schulwerk teacher’s library should be some form of the “classic editions,” the original five volumes of Music for Children by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, which have been adapted by many people into many languages, including Greek and Japanese.

At Carl Orff’s suggestion, Doreen Hall, from Canada, made the first English language adaptation of Volume I in 1956. He requested that only a sampling of the original materials published in 1-5 be included. Two years later, in 1958, Volumes I and II of the English Edition by Margaret Murray, based on the German Volumes I and II, appeared. This time, at Orff’s request, a nearly complete adaptation was made.

It should be noted that Doreen Hall uses Canadian materials in her adaptation, and Margaret Murray uses materials from the British Isles. Neither adaptation is simply a transfer of music and a translation of the German materials. Since 1958, all five volumes of the German edition have been published in the English adaptations made by Doreen Hall and Margaret Murray.

In contrast, the American Edition of Music for Children consists of three large volumes. There are some examples from the original German editions, but the bulk of the work is contributions from approximately 20 United States teachers: songs, pieces, games, dances, activities, and complete lessons. The material is not graded, but instead loosely grouped according to prior experience, not age. Several articles appear in each volume as well.

Although both the “classic editions” and the American Edition represent examples of Orff Schulwerk, each set has a different focus. The classic volumes give models only, and the American Edition offers lesson plans as well. Obviously, one does not take the place of the other. Nagging question: can you really teach from someone else’s lesson plans?

Two other library books should be added to the basic library, both related to the original German volumes. One is a small book by Wilhelm Keller of the Orff Institute entitled Introduction to Music for Children. It first appeared in 1954, the same year as the last volumes of the German edition were published. It was revised in 1963, two years after the Orff Institute was established as the teacher-training branch of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. In 1970, Susan Kennedy translated it into English.

It contains explanatory remarks about the Orff Schulwerk, description of the early instrumentarium, playing techniques for body percussion, non-pitched and pitcher percussion, and suggestions for the teacher. One of his concluding observations states, “The Orff Schulwerk is a beginning that is not in search of a conclusion, but seeks continual alteration and modification, both indicators of life.”

The other important book is entitled Elementaria,by Gunild Keetman, which first appeared in German in 1970. It was translated by Margaret Murray and published in English in 1974. It consists of two parts: Part One contains Rhythmic and Melodic Exercises, and Part Two concerns Elementary Movement Training. The Appendix includes instruction for playing the instruments used in the first part, and a description of the newer instrumental ensemble.

In Werner Thomas’ Introduction, he says, “This book is a fundamental, practical handbook for Orff Schulwerk. It answers questions that teachers ask themselves when they first become acquainted with the material, it’s selection, organization, didactic preparation, and methodical presentation.”