Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Paradise is all ablaze today. A pupil. A school. A concert. A teacher quote -'Don't sing that it's classical and they won't like it' Agh!

If you ask a youngster whether they would like to sing a song by Andrew Lloyd Webber or Handel, there can be no prizes for guessing the outcome. Not that I have anything against his noble lordship and business man of mass culture, but when what he does, is chucked at us night and day in the media, and when he gives the ubiquitous 15 minutes of fame to a bevy of fair maidens all dying to be Maria or Dorothy whether they can sing or not, it is fair bet that most school aged folk have never even heard of Handel.

I spent much of my life in 'institution' teaching, be it school or Conservetoire, and I can honestly say, hand on heart, it is all in how you present music to children. If I had assumed that Handel would be 'too much' for them, or Mozart not 'catchy' enough, or indeed if I was afraid of being unpopular with the children, then I might have taken the easy route and chosen the all singing all dancing 'easy' arrangements of music from Abba !

However, being unpopular was not something I worried about too much. I was much more concerned that my pupils/students were given an equal opportunity to taste it all - from Monteverdi to Madonna, from Gilbert and Sullivan to Puccini, via Carousel!

The only way we will ever encourage children to be tomorrows audiences, and to have open minds about music is if we gift it all to them.

I once queried someone who questioned me about introducing 'classical' music to children who 'were betraying their roots' by not singing traditional music exclusively, simply by asking if they and their family never dined on Spaghetti Bolognese ? I felt 100% certain that many cultural dishes were equally enjoyed at supper time.

Get my point?

Music is not exclusive - and oddly in this day and age, that means not exclusive to the more accessible styles of Pop, Rock, Jazz and Musical Theatre. In the olden days we were villified for making music 'exclusive' and that meant Opera or Recital. A turnaround indeed.

If a teachers' expectations of our children are so narrow - what chance do they stand of ever hearing the power of a symphony, or the joy of singing in a huge choir. We retain for ever, what made us excited when we were at school. My entire life's career started because a music teacher in my state school ran a great choir, gave us a love of class singing, and encouraged us so much that later I pleaded and pleaded for singing lessons. Singing does not run in my family, although my father would disagree but since he whistles sharp and sings flat I feel on pretty safe ground in this! But, he recognised that I had been utterly enthused by a certain Mrs Thompson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Let's offer them everything, and then they can make informed choices. I teach a 'brand new with tags on ' teenager who can sing a beautiful sacred song in a cathedral, play a naughty little bridesmaid in light opera, and go to a rock concert, all in the same month - now that's diversity!

Once again for good measure. Let's offer them everything.


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