Some of our Robins have now been singing with us for 2 years and Songbook 7 includes more challenging pieces like The Cuckoo, a beautiful song in two parts from Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons.
Friday Afternoons is a collection of 12 songs composed 1933–35 for the pupils of Clive House School, Prestatyn, where Britten’s brother, Robert, was headmaster. The title of the collection was originally Twelve Songs for Schools, but at the suggestion of Robert Britten was changed to Friday Afternoons, since class singing was held at Clive House at that time in the week.
This academic year we are delighted to be starting Primary Robins at two new schools in Durham. There are now 1400 children involved and we hope to double this number by September 2016.
On Tuesday I went to Winnall Primary School. In previous years, the Yr 6 children who were new to Primary Robins seemed a bit too cool for singing. I was immediately struck by how, having started the project in year 4 or 5, the new Year 6 class is still really enthusiastic about singing and I heard a fantastic rendition of Who Will Buy? sung by the Yr 6 at Winnall.
We then looked at O Waly, Waly. In the songbooks there is a small amount of the manuscript and for this particular song, as David pointed out, “all you need to know is on the page!” Pitch, length, it is all there. So we spent a little time really studying the music and looking at the length of notes – the white note with a stalk is worth 2 beats and is called a minim and the black note is worth 1 and called a crotchet.
In the afternoon we were at Stanmore and this year we are teaching Year 5. This group have not had Primary Robins before so it was right back to basics.
David asked the children to point to their voice box, then asked if they could feel it vibrating. We talked about vocal folds or chords and explained that they are 2 bits of tissue that vibrate when air is passed through. This then brought us to the importance of breathing when singing – no air, no vibration = no sound.
We sang Camptown Races and, when asked if anyone knew what a nag was, one little boy put up his hand and said, “It’s what Dad calls my mum!”
It is wonderful to see familiar faces but also thrilling when children new to the project get hooked on singing.
A new teacher at one of our schools could not believe her ears when her class sang a brilliant Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, she looked quite shocked and simply said, “Wow! I was not expecting that”. You could see how pleased the children were by her response.
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