Working on a Ryedale Festival concert last summer with soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, I happened to ask after her primary school age children. Cue a long conversation between us about music in schools. I learned that, despite being one of the busiest singers around, Elin teaches singing, weekly where possible, in her sons’ school in West Sussex, and is an ambassador for Sing Up. Cue an invitation to visit and hear some music at Blackthorns Primary Academy, where I headed between snowstorms last week.
This was one of the most energising school visits I can recall. Helen Moffatt has been doing a day’s music a week with all the school’s classes for many years. For this music day she had created a template for a performance which ingeniously included possibilities for singing, playing, dancing (lots of x-treme flossing here) and for expressing personal identity, fears and favourite things. The fascinating part was that each year group had created their own version in class, greatly helped by their everyday teachers who had thoroughly owned the project. Seeing groups of 4-year olds and then 9-year olds attempting roughly the same things was extraordinary.
Many students brought along instruments they were learning, and felt quite happy about playing to the whole school, who listened with gracious attention. We finished the day with a performance by Elin’s numerous singing club; made even more numerous when once again the whole school felt it just had to join in ( to a 4-part round!) How infectious and irresistible music seems under these circumstances; and how indispensible.
Phew ! Tea-time has arrived. Helen Moffatt (left) and Elin Manahan Thomas (right) with some brilliant young Blackthorns folks.