Art beat;Arts

19th February 1999 at 00:00
Orderly troops of children crocodiled their way into the Royal Festival Hall in London on February 8 for the Lollipop Proms run by Music for Youth. Five thousand London primary pupils, in two sittings, watched young people sing and play with such elan that there has probably been an upsurge in demand for drums and saxophones across the capital.

The mood in the hall after lunch was one of well-behaved expectancy, and advisory teacher Lin Marsh, who comp red the proceedings, knew how to keep the enthusiasm at just the right level by introducing action songs and a round between items.

The concert got off to a rousing start with Malcolm Arnold's narrative piece, Tam O'Shanter, played by Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra from Surrey. Their musical director, Adrian Brown, first grabbed the audience's attention with some excellent storytelling to show how the instrumental sounds describe the action. Next, Berkshire Girls' Choir displayed the discipline and concentration needed, as well as the sweet voices to make a prize-winning choir. They sang the gentle "One Moment in Time" and a traditional Irish song, "The Last Rose of Summer".

Traditional Irish dance music filled the hall next, with Island Road's lively set. This group of nine, made up mainly of two families, the Linanes and the Mulreadys, set toes tapping. Seven-year-old Ciaran Linane danced two accomplished solos with complete aplomb.

The audience buzzed with excitement at the mere titles of Aylesbury Music Centre Training Dance Band's programme: "Mission Impossible", "Theme from the Naked Gun" and "The Flintstones". Terrific group and solo jazz playing got everyone clapping and shouting"Yabadabadoo!" at full throttle.

What could possibly follow this? Park High Samba School was the cacophanous answer. A cross between street music and rhythmic sport, this exciting, if deafening, sound is controlled by one of the players blowing a PE whistle. The group, filling the stage and never still for a moment, play percussion instruments, mainly drums. Outside the hall, the attendant had his fingers in his ears, but inside the young audience roared their approval.

On March 8, West Midlands primary schools can enjoy a similar concert at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. For details: Music for Youth 0181 870 9624. That, by the way, is during National Orchestra Week, when all kinds of orchestral events, many educational, will be happening all over the country. For more information ring the Association of British Orchestras: 0171 931 7750. Listen to Classic FM during the week for more information and educational features.

Meanwhile, primary teachers, support staff and parents who have enthusiasm but little experience in teaching singing can join INSET workshops during spring and early summer in various locations. More information from The Voices Foundation: 0171 357 7604.

Folkworks, experts in using folk material in and out of school, are running a Folkworks Workout for Teachers, Folk Music in the School Curriculum on February 27 at Wickham Community Comprehensive School, Tyne and Wear. Details: 02191 222 1717.

With the British film industry showing a special interest in historical subjects, a film about American history, more honest and less idealised than most, is due to open here on March 5.

Turning Toni Morrison's harrowing book about the legacy of slavery, Beloved (cert 15), into a movie became a labour of love for Oprah Winfrey who plays Sethe with the kind of unglamorous honesty not usually achieved by chat-show hosts. Sethe's story represents the perversion of loving human relationships by slavery - years before the film opens she murdered her baby rather then have her recaptured by the plantation owners. The ghost of that baby returns, out of the blue, as a young woman (touchingly played as a charming but sinisterchild-woman by Thandie Newton) and, demanding love, wreaks havoc in the family. The indignities and cruelties of slavery are presented in flash-back, but they are never sensationalised. Despite everything, this beautifully acted film about a West never inhabited by an idealised John Wayne-figure, has an optimistic ending. Sethe's other daughter, Denver, is set to make a better, independent life for herself.

The mom-and-apple-pie endorsement of American mores, Stepmom (cert 12), is already doing the rounds. Prepare to weep copiously into your pop-corn - perfect mom (Susan Sarandon) is dying, pretty nice younger substitute (Julia Roberts) will glue the family together - but don't miss the school celebration of Thanksgiving. In a rare moment of humour, small son Ben is hoisted above his classmates in feathery turkey gear solemnly representing the pioneering spirit. "That's my son up there", breathes Sarandon with pride.

Teachers who want to recharge their own creative batteries should join TES guest poets for this and last term, Anthony Wilson and Ann Sansom, on an Arvon poetry course in Devon (01409 231338). This runs from April 5 to 10 and special rates are available.

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