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The patter of little hands

Drum circles have become very popular in the United States and now Laura Carse and Adrian Patterson, aka Crash, Bang, Wallop, two motivated and enthusiastic young music performance graduates, are introducing the concept to Scottish schools through tailored workshops.

For a while, Laura was teaching percussion at a Brazilian street school, in a village outside Recife, where the children fashioned instruments out of discarded objects, such as dustbin lids, and she learnt the samba rhythm. A pared down version of this is the basis of a series of drum workshops for 106 P5 pupils at King's Meadow Primary in Haddington, East Lothian.

Crash, Bang, Wallop's drums are designed for children and brightly decorated with exotic animals which reflect their Latin American and African history, which Laura outlines to an attentive audience. The bass drum is known as a gathering drum; it was originally used for communicating between villages. The sound effects drum represents a lion's purr; it has a cord you roll to get the sound.

After a brief demonstration of what the drums can do, Laura tells the youngsters: "By the end of the hour you all will be drummers too."

Many of the children have never played an instrument before, but that is not a problem. A wave of excitement goes around the circle of children as Laura describes how they can alter the pitch of the drum beats.

Each child is assigned to a drum, sometimes several playing one together.

The object of the workshop is to learn a simple samba rhythm on which each class will be judged in an inter-year competition in the school's main hall.

The children are given visual signals to indicate when to start and stop playing and when to increase and decrease the volume. Several volunteers take it in turns to act as band leader. Laura and Adrian's confidence is infectious and soon even the most dubious children are joining in with the rhythm.

"Six-week courses of one to two hours a day enable us to develop technique and more intricate rhythms," Laura explains.

The workshops can involve children as young as two, who learn to recognise visual signals and associate certain sounds with certain animals to create a story.

King's Meadow Primary offers tuition for violin, cello, woodwind and brass instruments and has advertised for a choir master and recorder teacher, but it does not have a music specialist this year. Class teacher Nicola Carse says: "Our music policy has changed slightly this year. We thought it would be a good idea to give the children something a bit different."

Laura Carse, Crash, Bang, Wallop, 13c Kinnoull Street, Perth PH1 5EN, tel 01738 447469e-mail rhyscaulfield@hotmail.com

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