Sunday, 28 August 2016

Singing Together

I had a long 9 hour drive back home to Paradise yesterday, and as usual I listened all day to the wonderful BBC Radio 4 ! All words and hardly any music, a recipe for bliss to me in my time away from teaching. Around 7pm there was a truly brilliant programme, devised and presented by Jarvis Cocker, a musician in the band Pulp ( I have to admit I had never heard of him or this band, but that does not mean they are not globally famous......). 

It was an incredible journey back into the bowels of BBC history and traced the beginnings of that radio phenomenon 'Singing Together'. I remember it vividly as a child in infants school, sitting cross legged in front of the huge brown box radio with its canvas face and hand sized circular knobs which Miss Varley, our music teacher, purposefully twiddled until she found the Schools Radio Service frequency. Jarvis Cocker interviewed a couple of retired teachers, in their late 90's who had used these recordings with their classes since the 60's. They ( like me) had such immensely fond memories of the programmes, and the sheer joy that they brought to children all over the world via the BBC Home Service we listened to, and the World Service for overseas children from Australia to Fiji. 

The format was set from the earliest programmes, which first aired in 1939, if you can believe it, and although the early style was considered rather too flippant by the more 'worthy' BBC musicians, it took off and gave school children in the uncertain world of war, and the homesick evacuees a half hour of pleasure, and singing for the joy of singing.

I started school in 1957 and I can still remember the songs - The Skye Boat Song, Michael Finnigan, Bushes and Briars, Donkey Riding and many more. As a young class teacher I regularly handed around my class, the Singing Together children's pamphlet books as staple repertoire for my singing classes - in the 50's I loved it, in the 70's my pupils loved it and today, almost at retirement I still use the books and teach my youngsters those very songs, and they love them. 

So many influential musicians in the folk world, the pop and rock world and indeed the classical world listened and joined in with the bright, jolly and so tuneful songs, and took the first happy steps towards their own careers. The songs, so it seemed were chosen deliberately to be uplifting, the presenter taught them to the eager children in classrooms all over the world in just the way I teach now - by listening and copying, and in bite sized chunks. Each song had a little background story, and some small element of musical form. I remember only the pure joy of singing these songs. 

I teach so many of these songs to my babes, and never tire of the simple, tuneful and joyful little songs that they are !

I put a link to the programme on the BBC website - enjoy ! If it doesn't work go to the BBC website and search 'Singing Together'


How many memories does this picture hold ?

I would have been the little girl looking up and singing from memory !


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