Skip to main content

Musical cheers

Percussion Players: Ring-A-Ding-Ding By Jane Sebba A C Black Pounds 11.99

Let's Make Music Fun: The Red Songbook, The Yellow Songbook, The Blue Songbook By Eileen Diamond IMP Pounds 7.95 each

The Giggly, Grumpy, Scary Book By Eileen Diamond, Jan Holdstock, David Moses and Jane Sebba Universal Pounds 9.95. Simply Nativity By Jennifer S Porter

Noah By Caroline Hoile. In Viking Times By Jan Holdstock Golden Apple Productions, Newmarket Road, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 3YB Pounds 5.95 each. Planning For Music Devon Learning Resources 21 Old Mill Road Torquay TQ2 6AU Pounds 6. Musical Elements - simply Pounds 5. The Early Years Collection

Discovering The Environment By Mike Bishop and Chris Smith Education Through Music 171 Barkers Butts Lane, Coventry, CV6 1EF. Pounds 10.95 each

Tom Deveson celebrates the writers who bring out the fun in music. Teachers give thanks for rare talents like Jane Sebba - people who make music not just a chore but part of a richer imaginative life. Ms Sebba's latest book, one of a series aimed at making percussion in the classroom more accessible, is a treasury of good ideas for eight to 11-year-olds.

Each book in the series comes in three parts. There are games to play, such as Tea Time (hide and seek based on varieties of pitch) or Adding Accidentals, which encourages children to identify sharps and flats. There are ostinato activities (using a variety of repeated phrases), based on wittily rewritten familiar songs and leading naturally from body percussion to the use of tuned instruments. And finally there are explorations of pentatonics (five-note scales). A knock-knock-joke inspiration characteristically weds children's sense of fun and curiosity to an adult sense of purpose and musical development. There are no staves or scores but adroit explanations of how to make it all happen. This is a fine and useful book.

Eileen Diamond is another admirably dependable inventor of songs. Her new collections bring together some old favourites such as "Market Song", a gradual accumulation of contrapuntal parts, with an offering of new pieces. Each volume has about 30 songs, helpfully distinguished between those for infants and for juniors. Among the fresh compositions, it is hard to dislike "One to Ten", a cheerful counting song about growing older, "Play Your Sound", a vigorous waltz, and "Playing Quietly" which generates a slow crescendo as it moves from D minor tentativeness to F major assertion. The piano accompaniments are fairly simple, but teachers will require occasional bursts of confidence to handle some of the suggested rhythmic improvisations. As always, Eileen Diamond's special talent is for making up songs that enact the very musical features their words describe. There is plenty here for active hands and feet as well as for voices.

Both these writers join with two other reliable artists, David Moses and Jan Holdstock, in an attractive compilation for five to seven-year-olds. As the title suggests, these 12 new songs cover a range of moods with accompanying suitable actions. The emotional ups and downs of infant school life are deftly explored from the gentle E minor lament of David Moses's "Very Very Sad" to the insidious suggestiveness of Jan Holdstock's "Nasty Thing Under The Bed". Jane Sebba's "Sometimes and Other Times" marks a lovely transition from bouncy aggression to meditative tranquillity.

Three manageable plays-with-music appear under the Golden Apple imprint. Simply Nativity (age 3-7) and Noah (Key Stage 1) are straightforward unremarkable retellings of Biblical stories, with songs for all main characters and a narrative link for adults or good readers. A rap for God and some spirited comedy for the animals enliven the episodes of Noah.

In Viking Times uses an archaeological setting to explore buildings, armoury and town life as well as some rock-n-roll raiding. Other unashamed musical anachronisms include a construction calypso and a Valhalla tango. Jan Holdstock's expertise allows her to carry it all off with verve.

Planning for Music, the curriculum guidance from Devon, is, as it needs to be, much the same as that emerging all over the UK. The planning recommendations use the elements of musical language as the basic structure for each year's work, and come with pages of loose-leaf grids, some already completed, on practising teachers' advice, and with appropriate warnings about the contrived nature of some topic-based schemes. The elements are further explored in a sensible reader-friendly booklet that gives practical examples suitable for each of years one to six. Each concept has its own set of brief paragraphs, explaining the feel of time, change, tonality and pitch as well as their strict definitions.

Education Through Music offers songs to explore non-musical areas of the curriculum. Its offerings have a mainly electro-folk or bluesy character. The Early Years Collection presents informative sense about homes, farms and colours and some lively deliberate nonsense. Discovering the Environment is for the whole primary range, and adds carefully-worded data about pollution, minibeasts, seasons and rainforests to some occasionally intrusive exhortation - "Show We Care" is a priggishness best avoided. Cassettes provide a full and a backing-only version of each song for teachers without guitar or keyboard skills. They sound fun. And if the music isn't always compelling, not everyone has the rare talent of Jane Sebba.

Tom Deveson is music advisory teacher for the London Borough of Southwark.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you