In defence of choral singing;Music for the Millennium;Letter

8th May 1998 at 01:00
I wonder whether the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was granted advance notice of the publication of your disturbing survey of primary music.

Certainly, his letter promising "the rejuvenation of musical instrument teaching" in The Times on April 21 was timely, although one is left wondering why this announcement came from Mr Smith rather than from David Blunkett.

Welcome as Mr Smith's intervention may be, it is to be hoped that this does not signify any change from the generally accepted principle that instrumental music is an integral part of the school curriculum and therefore best delivered there.

A surprising feature of Mr Smith's letter was his omission of any reference to singing. Admittedly, his letter was triggered by a recent article by Richard Morrison concerning the future of the National Youth Orchestra but, as your survey has tellingly revealed, the teaching of singing (other than in Wales) is in just as parlous a state as the teaching of instruments. Choral singing in both primary and secondary schools is in serious decline.

It cannot be repeated too frequently that singing is one of the most important and accessible manifestations of our common culture and is therefore an indispensable educational tool. Almost incidentally, it also provides an essential foundation for the development of good musicianship.

If, by whichever department, special arrangements are to be made for the "rejuvenation" of instrumental music teaching, similar provision should surely be made to guarantee the future of our priceless national heritage of choral singing.

Patrick Salisbury Chairman, British Federation of Young Choirs 7 Chapel Lane Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire

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