Far Brook has longstanding traditions that involve the entire School and overarch the curricula. They are Morning Meeting, the Thanksgiving Processional, Stabat Mater, and the graduation Shakespeare play.
We believe that "knowledge put into some expressed form is the last stage of the learning cycle," because "a child must organize his or her intellectual or intuitive experience in order to express it." "Drama with all its associated arts is one great channel through which facts, knowledge, ideas, all of that unfamiliar world which lies just outside of their own experience may be worked into the actual experience of children, making its meaning full and lasting, a part of their wisdom." (Quotations from The Roots of Excellence)
Parent support of the traditions and children’s attendance at rehearsals and performances are essential to the educational process at the School.
Preparation for these celebrations requires self-discipline, respect for others, and striving for accomplishment and mastery. The traditions provide exposure to great material which stretches the imagination, touches the human spirit, and fosters development of ideas, character, and values. Music is a vital part of all Far Brook traditions.
Each morning before classes begin, students and faculty file into Moore Hall, class by class. The atmosphere is one of quiet contemplation.
Morning Meeting allows a child to open himself to listening and the world. - Far Brook faculty member
At Morning Meeting, we experience poetry, music, and stories that range from the whimsical to the sublime, not as performances, but as food for the imagination, as examples of what is fine and meaningful, and as catalysts for adventuresome learning.
Young and old come together each day … the youngest look up in admiration … of the older students and set new models for themselves. - Former Far Brook Head of School Mary Wearn Wiener
Morning Meeting reminds us each day of our shared educational purpose. In Morning Meeting we seek
to instill a creative response to learning with great art, drama, music, and literature as models. - Far Brook School Statement of Purpose
The Processional is a joyful celebration of the harvest that involves every student in the entire School.
In preparation for this event, students read, paint, discuss myths and legends of the harvest, and begin to learn about farming and the problems of hunger in the world and in our neighboring communities.
The pageantry and drama of this simple ritual rest in the richness of the music and the procession of all the students, dressed in autumn colors and carrying gifts from the harvest that will be shared with local families in need. Students experience the discipline of rehearsing the music and of learning to walk with grace, poise, and purpose. Cherished partnerships are formed as older children walk with younger ones to give them support, courage, and guidance. The music which the children sing is chosen from great choral works. Alumni return year after year.
The Processional is presented on the day before Thanksgiving, with a dress rehearsal the Monday prior.
This presentation is an extended choral work by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736). It was introduced to Far Brook in 1964 by the late Edwin Finckel, Director of Music at Far Brook from 1951 - 1990, who chose this “hauntingly beautiful” work for its “purity of sound, which is achieved with young people's voices.”
Because of the variety of styles and the relative brevity of each movement, students find the work fascinating, and, at the same time, attainable. The work is made up of 13 movements, some of which are performed by the chorus of Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Graders; faculty members; and alumnae; and others by student soloists and small vocal ensembles.
Stabat Mater is performed each spring by older students in a formal concert setting, accompanied by a professional string chamber ensemble. It is a cherished event in the lives of many alumni who come to enjoy the presentation, and it draws alumnae back each year to take part in singing the work.
Great plays are given children here, for they deeply understand them in part and return to them all through their lives.
Shakespeare is not cultural at Far Brook, but a good plot, a conflict between good and evil, between monsters and good spirits, between conspirators and noble creatures; and Shakespeare leads children to the limit of joyous, fantastic comedy. Exquisite imagery, language that feels fine rhythmically to children ... educates. Beauty is not dissected. Constant acquaintance with beauty and greatness draws it in through the pores.
- from The Roots of Excellence, Winifred Moore
The tradition that closes the Far Brook year and rounds out each student’s education through the arts is a Shakespeare play. Either The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream is presented by the graduating Eighth Graders as a way of "giving back" to the School. Every student at Far Brook is involved in the play in some way, through reading and talking about the story in class, memorizing passages, participating in classroom projects, and singing the songs.
The play is presented on two evenings in June. The second performance is preceded by graduation.
I realize what a priceless thing it is to have learned Shakespeare's language while one's ear is young, to be able to just read it instead of laboring over it – no one should ever doubt that young children can benefit from reading it and playing it.
- Julia Flanders, Class of 1979