Art beat;Arts

5th March 1999 at 00:00
This has been a good week for meeting inspiring arts teachers. On Monday last week, Kathy Hulme from Reay primary school in south London provided a small choir to record the TES Millennium Anthem at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The 37 nine and ten-year-olds, mostly Kathy's Year 6 class, patiently practised in a deserted foyer, getting the half-term croaks out of their voices, but they really came alive later on stage.

Nicholas Cleobury, conductor of the Britten Sinfonia, introduced the children to the orchestra, who were casually dressed, but impressive enough with a full range of instruments on show. Reay's yellow sweatshirts made a bright splash of colour each side of the stage as, in three or four "takes", the anthem was recorded with orchestral backing.

Realising the singers might be a little over-awed - some had never even seen most of the instruments before, let alone sung with them - the conductor coaxed more volume: "Imagine your granny is in the audience and she hasn't got her hearing-aid switched on." Listening in the stalls were Debbie Wiseman and Don Black, respectively composer and lyricist of the anthem, "There's only one of you".

You will find your TES Millennium Anthem pull-out in the first section of The TES, with a score and suggestions about how to teach it, as well as information about sending for the CD and interviews with Wiseman and Black. The score is also on the TES website and the recording will be available there soon.

Kathy Hulme says that everyone in her class has regular music lessons and, unusually these days, instrumental teaching too if they wish. She says she had an enlightened headteacher when she was at primary school herself. "I think that's why I'm in music teaching now; I know just what a life-changing experience it can be."

In Solihull in the West Midlands, seven schools combined in the Langley Cluster Arts Project on Tuesday, to provide just such an experience. The Thread is a music and dance spectacular put together with the help of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Kokuma, an Afro-Caribbean dance company.

The idea for this exercise came from Langley secondary school where Terry Clarke is the arts co-ordinator, but I was met at the Library and Arts Centre by the head, Susan Orlik. She is obviously expert in giving people freedom and encouragement and says she's not bad at raising money. West Midlands Arts put pound;3,000 into The Thread, but the other pound;9,000 had to be raised with the help of Sainsbury's.

Langley school has recently won a pound;750,000 Millennium grant to improve its arts facilities and plans to share them with the community. A new studio theatre should be finished in a year's time.

But last week the community came to see The Thread. Langley combined with its feeder primaries and a special school to make an optimistic piece about children leading mankind towards a peaceful future. There were some delightful sequences, especially the farming and hunting dances, and Nathaniel Morrison, a GCSE student at Langley secondary, sang the theme song, "Peace on Earth", written by the children with the CBSO, most movingly. The school orchestra, augmented by a few CBSO players and Kokuma's exciting drummer, Rocky, played the newly-written music with gusto.

The stage was festooned with hanging portraits of the children - the thread of hope In London, young people studying theatre can enjoy a feast of bad taste. Shock-headed Peter, based on the subversive poems of Heinrich Hoffmann, is played with full spoof Victorian melodrama at the Lyric Hammersmith. Retribution follows swiftly and graphically when children misbehave: play with matches and you go up in smoke; suck your thumbs and they get chopped off. The music by the Tiger Lillies is a perfect match, a solemn Victorian band led by a counter-tenor singing happily of death. (Tickets: 0181 741 2311) At the Young Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Bartholomew Fair is a cheerfully rude and swift-paced rendering of Ben Jonson's scatalogical moral tale. Brought up-to-date in style, it is still true to the rumbustious spirit of the text. Laurence Boswell, whose Hamlet is due at this theatre in April, directs (Tickets: 0171 928 6363).

heather neill

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