3 December 2015

Singing

Turn the clock back to the early nineteen sixties, back to my village primary school. There's a big black-leaded cast iron fireplace in the corner and we have just returned to the classroom after playtime. Miss Readhead gives out copies of "Singing Together". She turns on the retro wireless in its polished mahogany casing and we wait for instructions from our virtual singing teacher - Mr William Appleby who speaks with a reassuring Yorkshire accent. One of us.

All around the country in thousands of other classrooms, countless children are huddling just like us - ready to sing. There are old British folk songs, Christmas carols and a few songs from afar such as "Waltzing Matilda" and "Yellow Bird". 

I enjoyed those "Singing Together" mornings and usually sang my heart out. The programmes were intelligently constructed - allowing for demonstration and repetition, breaking the songs up into small sections before putting them back together again. Some of those timeless songs remain imprinted in my memory like musical tattoos - "The Minstrel Boy", "Lillibulero", "Green Grow the Rushes-O" and "The Skye Boat Song" for example.

For several years there was a parallel programme with accompanying songbook called "Rhythm and Melody" but for some reason it was far less popular than "Singing Together" which very many people of my generation remember with much affection. It was the best of school - gathered round the fireplace with classmates. It linked us with our capital city and brought us lovely songs with history and meaning. And it wasn't dry and technical as many music lessons in secondary school would later be. "Singing Together" was exactly what the title suggested it would be - people singing together and hopefully, like me, enjoying the experience.

26 comments:

  1. A while back I wrote a post about the staid, humourless singing teacher, a Mr. Leadbetter, we had in high school, but I didn't mention the pleasant times we enjoyed as younger children in primary school in moments not dissimilar to those you wrote. However, being here in Queensland we didn't gather around a fireplace when doing so.

    At the younger ages, we also dance...and that, too, was lots of fun.

    I wonder if primary school kiddies are still allowed those special moments today...I hope they are.

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    1. I guess that in Queensland you gather round the fridge freezer Lee!

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    2. Now, that's a good idea! Why didn't I think of that? lol

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  2. Oh dear , I'm so old I remember this well

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    1. Sorry to have reminded you that you're not as young as you once were Kate! Thanks for calling by this grumbly old blog.

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  3. Yes, I remember the Singing Together broadcasts in the 1960s in school. I recall the Skye Boat song too as well as When the Boat Comes In (dance to your daddy, my little laddie...). There was also a song, the first line of which has stayed with me ever since: Mr Sludge, the medium sized snail. Wherever he went he left a trail...

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    1. I don't recall Mr Sludge but yes... When The Boat Comes In - that was a good un Philip. Thanks for calling by sir.

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  4. Gosh I remember singing classes in the 1970s in Australia as a primary school student. I always enjoyed the songs and like you Yorkie many are embedded in my mind. Sadly I cannot sing in tune and my singing can be likened to an auditory assault.

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    1. Please send me a link to an audio clip of you singing "Waltzing Matilda" Leishy! I am sure other "Yorkshire Pudding" visitors will greatly appreciate it. Consider this to be a gauntlet thrown down - a challenge from the other side of the world.

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    2. I couldn't do that to you Yorkie , it would be cruel on your ears .

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  5. As a young teacher, with no musical training or ability in the late 50's, these radio programs saved my hide and the kids got some music according to the curriculum.

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    1. I guess you just mimed the words Red. Otherwise your singing voice might have attracted predatory Canadian wildlife which would have endangered the children's lives.

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  6. We had similiar singing programs, which happily for our teacher, were broadcast. My favourite songs were Bluebells of Scotland, Nut Brown Maiden and the Minstrel Boy.
    Not too many Australian songs back in those days.

    Ms Soup

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    1. I still love "The Minstrel Boy". Such a poignant song. "In the ranks of death you'll find him..."

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  7. That was great - your post as well as the article and audio clip you've linked to; I instantly fell in love with Mr. Appleby! (Don't tell RJ)
    We sang a lot at school, too, but I can not remember the name of our song book for music classes. I can remember the one we sometimes used in English lessons, though. It was called "It's fun to sing" and had a section called "Gospels and Negro Spirituals" - unthinkable today, I suppose. I loved the variety, switching from sea shanties to gospels to medieval songs and back. I still love singing, but have stopped singing in choirs when I was about 17.

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    1. Perhaps it is nigh time for you to search around for a choir to join Meike. It is never too late. I tried to find a photo of Mr Appleby but failed. I guess he will always remain just a voice. He was a music adviser for schools in Doncaster.

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  8. We never did have a radio but we did sing along to the piano. It was played by a pervy bloke called Mr Mold. He used to have little girls sitting on his lap whilst he played and we sang. That is multi tasking but didn't last long as he made the mistake of picking the director of educations daughter and he left the school. Don't know where he went.

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    1. Did Little Adrian sometimes sit on Mr Mold's knee? If you need a ,listening ear your blog friends will be sympathetic. Did he look like Jimmy Savile?

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  9. I remember this - not Adrian's pervy pianist - Singing Together. Our teacher brought the programme into school recorded on a huge reel to reel tape recorder. I remember Green Grow the Rushes-O and something about a cherry that had no stone? And gypsies seemed to crop up quite a lot.

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    1. "I Gave My Love a Cherry" -- I remember that song! A cherry with no stone, a chicken with no bone, a story with no end, a baby with no cryin'...

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    2. Oh yes Wanda - "The Raggle Taggle Gipsies"!
      Was "I Gave My Love a Cherry" about the loss of virginity?

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  10. A broadcast singing class! That's so funny. And interesting that it was so common and memorable both here and abroad. I had a grade school music class but we had a (non-pervy) teacher who had us sing along to Carpenters records. (I should write about that myself sometime!)

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    1. I know that I shouldn't say this but I am a fan of The Carpenters, well Karen - not so much Richard. Karen's voice was like a balm.

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  11. At our small little rural school (80 students) we had Mr. Mattorola. He taught a class with grades 2-3-4, out of school he was leader of a professional orchestra. We not only sang, everyone who wanted them got music lessons. Our little school had a crackerjack band. My son did not have much of a music experience at the same public school 40 years later. Then we put him in a Waldorf school, where they not only sang every day but they memorized and recited poetry, made and illustrated their own books, and put on musical plays that would knock your socks off. And still they managed to get a superior education and form a group of lifelong friends.

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    1. Mattorola sounds like the name of juke box manufacturer! It's clear you made the right choice - putting Bob into the Waldorf school.

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    2. I have concluded that music, art, poetry and a school policy that supports family friendships and caring is far more valuable than forcing kids to study a narrow curriculum in outrageously overpriced textbooks so they can pass a state test.

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