Christmas carols and all that jazz

Time and Tune, BBC Radio 3, Thursdays, 03.00-03.20am, Age range: 7-9

Time and Tune sits in the middle age group of the BBC's primary music course, between The Song Tree and Music Workshop.

It is arranged thematically, several programmes at a time. Each programme is self contained, but also takes the developing theme along. There are songs for the children to sing, music for them to listen to, and creative ideas for them to develop not only in their music lessons but in other areas of the curriculum. The musical content is carefully arranged to cover, over a two-year cycle, the elements of the music national curriculum in a way which ensures progression.

This term the two themes are called "Space Station 44" and, for the second half term, "It's not Christmas without Carols".

"Space Station 44" assumes that children are motivated by slightly off-the-wall space stories. Given the ubiquity of this idea in, say, weekend morning television cartoons, it is probably a fair assumption. This story has mystery signals from space, an unhelpful computer, and a space journey.

"It's not Christmas without Carols" tells the story of a school which is preparing for the Christmas concert. Unfortunately, the piano suffers a disaster (the ceiling falls on it) and the children set out on a quest to find alternative ways of providing the music.

Between them, the two programmes cover a range of musical styles - though if you had to generalise, the space story is rock and Christmas is jazz. Importantly, too, the writers of the songs succeed in building in, often quite subtly, lots of teaching points about rhythm, tempo and the structure of music.

I particularly enjoyed the jazz-based songs in the Christmas story. There is, in fact, the basis here for a good school Christmas production. The final song "Listen it's Christmas" is exactly the sort of slightly sentimental, full hearted Christmassy song about peace and love ("There's a song in the stillness, If only you'll hear") that primary school productions need to send everyone home a bit damp around the eyes.

For audio tapes and support materials for this and other radio programmes, tel: 0181 746 1111

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