We hissed like snakes, to feel our diaphragms working, and sang the days of the week backwards to a major scale. As "Food Glorious Food" has lots of difficult intervals, we spent quite a bit of time looking at pitch.
When David asked if anyone knew who wrote the novel Oliver Twist, there were many suggestions. These included Michael Morpurgo, J.K. Rowling and Roald Dahl. One little girl was convinced it was written by Chicken Dials! One boy commented that his Granny hated Charles Dickens because his books were so long.
Another boy volunteered to sing a solo. His class teacher told me later that that was completely unexpected, as he is painfully shy.
There followed lots of talk about gruel and saveloys, which apparently, with curry sauce, can be "lush".
One of the cheekiest boys in a Year 4 class sang in a small group - and it was lovely to hear his clear, pure bell-like voice. He looked as though he couldn't quite believe that the sound was coming from him.
It was amazing to hear that after three weeks and, I am told, some practice at home and in breaks, the children in all fourteen classes are making a stronger, more tuneful and confident sound. They are even singing some of the songs from memory.
On Tuesday morning at Mengham, there was lots of excitement and clapping as we sang The Muffin Man and a discussion about the relative virtues of the American muffin and the English muffin followed.
One boy came up to me on his way out and said, "Annabel, I am a bit scared because I am a boy and I am really enjoying this!"
This was quickly followed by another asking which day singing was next week, so that he could make sure he was off sick!
In the last class of the morning, David asked a little girl if she would like to sing a solo - she bravely stood up and gave a beautiful rendition of Edelweiss. Her teacher and class mates looked amazed - it was a true goose-bump moment.
As David and I were packing up, a head popped round the door. The same little boy who had been so negative earlier said, "I've changed my mind, I won't be sick next week".
At Sharps Copse the children did plenty of dancing and some fabulous singing. Their teacher commented on how they were already sounding more confident - and they are.
At Redbridge - again, lots of enthusiasm. The boy who really did not want to sing or even hold his songbook last week, began to slowly join in with The Muffin Man.
At Tanners Brook, a little girl put her hand up and told us how her "Gran knew Edelweiss, that they sang it together and it was lovely."
There are still lots who are less keen to take part, but it seems already to be making a difference to some.
It has been a truly wonderful first week. On Tuesday morning we began at Mengham Junior School on Hayling Island. There, we had two classes with age 8/9 (20 children in each class) and then two classes of age 10/11 (26 children in each).
They were all very enthusiastic and, surprisingly, it was the two most rowdy boys that contributed most to the class - from clapping out the rhythm of their heart beats, to breathing in a way that they called 'back to front'.The girls had fun trying to out sing the boys and vice versa.
At Sharps Copse, Portsmouth, we had 3 classes of 25, age 7-9. They were thrilled by the songbook, that has been so cleverly designed by Rebecca Thomas. They seemed astonished that they could keep the book!. By the end of the 30 minute session they were singing Edelweiss from memory.
On Thursday morning we visited Redbridge School, Southampton. Each of the four classes had 30 children. The first group was Orange Class year 5 (aged 9 ) and it was here that we first encountered a little boy who was determined not to sing. He was so set on non-participation that he did not even want to hold his songbook and it will be wonderful to see if, as the weeks go by, he begins to take part and join in with his classmates. In Yellow Class, when asked what the children thought Opera might be, a young boy said "it involves lots of trumpets"!
"Primary Robins was very well received both by children and staff alike. They were all enthralled by Annabel's wonderful singing. On playground duty today, I was delighted to see a number of Y6 boys singing from their songbooks on the bench and asking me to listen to their renditions, which were delightfully tuneful!" -Yvonne Taylor, Music Coordinator, Redbridge School
At Tanners Brook School, Southampton we were singing with three classes of 30 age 9/10. In one of the classes, there were four deaf children so David and I had to wear special devices in order that they could hear us. In another class, the children asked lots of interesting questions, including; "How does an opera singer break a glass?" and "What happens to your voice box when you lose your voice?" In another, there were again some children who were determinedly not interested and refused to sing.
"The children were mesmerised by Annabel's beautiful singing and thoroughly enjoyed taking part, it was lovely to hear them singing so enthusiastically. It's great that they are getting to do something so different to the usual timetable!" – Charlotte O'Keefe, Y5 Coordinator, Tanners Brook School
At the end of each session it was very moving to hear the class singing out, standing tall and enjoying themselves and thrilling to hear the odd "that was cool" or "I had fun". I did too and I can't wait to go back next week!