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Rhythm of life

Shake, Rattle and Roll offer a lively and entertaining introduction to percussion, as Gerald Haigh reports

Children need to hear and see good musicians. Finding the right people, though, isn't always easy and if you're spending money, you want high quality and the kind of wit and enthusiasm that will keep children engaged.

Ideally, too, you want children to have the chance to do some music making of their own.

On all those counts, "Shake, Rattle and Roll" scores highly. Jim Bernardin and Paul Whittington, who make up the duo, are working professionals who also teach part-time in schools, so not only do they put on a good performance, but they understand what makes children tick and they know how to run a good workshop session.

The real bonus, though, is that they are percussionists. People tend to think that it's easy to play a drum - which in one sense it is. To be exposed to the scalp prickling drama of a professional drummer, though, is something else. So, for example, at one point in their session, Jim sneaks off only to return in full highland gear with a side drum, beating a magnificent selection of rolls and paradiddles. Inevitably, Paul Whittington pops off and returns similarly equipped, and the two of them engage in a breathtaking display of snare drum virtuosity.

The two of them work very well with children, bringing some to the front to try instruments, leading rhythmic counting and clapping games and showing off their instruments in a variety of ways. They keep pupils' interest, too, by exploiting their contrasting personalities so that one becomes, in a gentle way, the clown to the other's know-all expert. But there's much more to it all than simply showing off on the drums. They bring with them an array of percussion instruments, and on the performance I saw, at St Nicholas C of E Primary in Nuneaton, Jim opened up with a dazzling czardas on the marimba.

After the concert came the workshop. This consisted of putting some 60 children around the hall with lots of percussion instruments, and then coaching them, in groups, in a number of different Latin rhythmic patterns that eventually led to what was a huge and satisfyingly noisy samba band.

It was one of those things that you thought would never work, but it did.

It was controlled yet thrilling and the children loved it.

Their visit to St Nicholas followed a typical pattern - a concert for key stage 1 before break and a workshop afterwards, then a similar concert and workshop for KS2 in the afternoon.

St Nicholas is a school that values music. "Every child gets at least an hour of music a week," says expressive arts co-ordinator Hayley Cupit.

"It's high on our priorities."

She was pleased with the Shake, Rattle and Roll session.

"It touches on lots of the music national curriculum," she points out, "using rhythm and patterns, listening skills, experiencing music from other cultures, and performing."

And, importantly, a lot of Nuneaton children had a lot of fun.

Email: info@shakerattleandroll.bizwww.shakerattleandroll.bizTel: 01903 242081

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