Sight singing at St. Giles

by Joachim Moskau

A sight singing class unfolds at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.
A sight singing class unfolds at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.
To “face the music” gets a new twist at St Giles Presbyterian Church in the Glebe. Organist and passionate choir master Desmond Hassell has launched a tutorial avalanche to teach all comers, young or old, rich or poor, the surprisingly simple basics of singing a song straight off the printed score. The philosophy is simple – even Mozart, Verdi and Bach began with “do-re-mi.”

Classes have been enjoyed since early March, and what started out as eight sessions over eight weeks ended up, by popular demand, as 15 sessions going to the end of June.
There was a lot of learning through singing, from Brahms’s lullaby to Bobby Shafto. The main object was to know what note of the major scale you are currently singing, while being able to hear mentally the next note demanded by the printed copy. Lots of other skills were covered, the most difficult being the ability to read and perform rhythms. Everybody learned the elements of how to pick out a tune on a keyboard, and how helpful that was in learning a melody.

The most important lesson was that progress can be made only in very small steps, that we need to analyze a problem and reduce it to its smallest component parts, which we then tackle one at a time. Mr. Hassell’s teacher in Ireland told him that perfection can only be reached by eliminating errors one by one.

The donation-driven effort was in aid of the Centretown Emergency Food Centre, for which we raised about $1,000.

The action resumes in September. If you would like to participate, please contact the church office at 613-235-2551 or

Minstrel Joachim Moskau is a one-time print and broadcast journalist, ex-chorister of St Giles, and a member of the singing class.

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