Michael Burkhardt. St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1994. Publication no. 99-1433, $39.95
Singing with Understanding is a substantial, four-inch binder, with over 380 reproducible pages (called "black-line masters") of music, activities, and background information that are all designed to do one thing: teach the elements of music by means of hymns and spirituals. Materials are provided for studying twenty-four hymns, from "O Come, O Come Immanuel" to "Somebody's Knocking at Your Door." Materials for each hymn include pithy historical introductions; lesson plans for teaching a variety of music concepts, including rhythm, melody, harmony, and musical structure; and a variety of innovative arrangements, with parts for instruments (including handbells, guitar, and Orff instruments), descants, canons, and simplified arrangements for beginning pianists. These instrumental parts are helpful for incorporating the skills that children may be developing in school-based instrumental music programs.
Singing with Understanding could be used in almost any setting. For those with a well-structured program, it contains helpful supplemental material and creative suggestions for using hymns as a basis for instruction. (This manual would be a fine supplement, for example, to Songs for Life, since it uses many of the same hymns and songs. See pp. 26-31.) For those who have limited time with children, this program encourages moving quickly into exploring new musical skills. For everyone, it offers musical arrangements that are well-suited to congregational worship, providing ways for young singers and instrumentalists to lead the congregation in song.