Foot-tapping package with wonder potential

13th September 1996 at 01:00
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT Radio 3FM Tuesdays 3.15-3.30am Sept 17-Nov 26 Teacher's booklet and cassette Pounds 2; Come and Praise words and music book Pounds 7.50; pack of five words books Pounds 5.99; photocopy masters Pounds 19.99; 20-track cassette ounds 5.99; CD Pounds 6.99. All from BBC Educational Publishing, PO Box 24, Wetherby, West Yorks, LS23 7EU.

Kenneth Williams likened critics to eunuchs in a harem - they can watch the action and make rude comments but they can't join in. I can't write words and music like this, but I can certainly join in.

This is the latest BBC Radio collective worship package for young children. Twenty of the 60 Come and Praise songs are on tape and CD (both with words and with accompaniment only). The selection mixes new material with well-known songs. Rhythms are memorable, foot-tapping and varied. There are good repetitive lyrics that infants can pick up quickly.

The music includes a Brazilian melody, a Chinese theme, a rap, a Maori chant, an adapted Urdu song, Alvin Stardust and the "Wiggly Waggly Song".

The creative mind of Geoffrey Marshall-Taylor and others have produced sensitive lyrics which are "broadly Christian". Few of the songs contain explicit references to religions other than Christianity but most, except the Christmas songs, address God rather than Christ and hence are not religion-specific. Many are planned to adapt to dance or actions. Most would start the day off well, leaving children humming them or wanting to sing an encore.

Something To Think About presents 10 new 15-minute programmes for use in collective worship for five to seven-year-olds (using songs from Come and Praise). Harrassed teachers can listen at 3.15am, but they may then find it rather harder to join in the singing in morning assembly. Others can buy the tape.

The first five programmes are on the theme of "Trees"; the second five "Night and Day". Material is drawn from a variety of sources: Indian, West Indian, American Indian, Jewish, Islamic, Christian and Biblical. There are clear notes on preparation, using the pictures provided, and follow-up suggestions. Different storytellers are used, so there are welcome changes in voice and accent and a moment of stillness, with appropriate music, to "listen or pray" is included.

On the minus side, learning and using a new song in 15 minutes is a tall order. When formal prayer occurs, it appears slightly apologetically in a "let's-get-this-over-with" voice, which is a pity.

The packaged act of worship will always appeal, introducing material that teachers are too busy to produce, using effects they don't have available, providing a different and potentially valuable experience for children. It can't, by its nature, be tailored to a specific class or school. Nor can it guarantee that moment of wonder or insight that can make worship worthwhile. But who can?

The BBC has achieved a professional contribution to this field in an unlikely setting: radio for an age which doesn't readily listen. It's worth using for that.

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