Hitting the right note;Primary;Reviews

12th February 1999 at 00:00
MUSIC BOX. Radio 3. Tuesdays 3.00-3.15am. Teacher's notes. pound;3. Tapes pound;2. Music for songs and accompaniment. pound;6.50. Book and cassette pack. pound;13.50. Ages 4-5. Tel: 01937 541001.

Young children love to sing -and it's good for them in a whole range of ways. It helps with words, with sequencing, with understanding the idea of narrative. But too few infant and nursery classes are taught to sing well, which is why we so often hear those tuneless, half-spoken renderings of carols and familiar songs.

Any teacher wanting to do better and needing some help should consider this series - a precursor to the excellent BBC radio primary music course. There are two units for Spring 1999, each one led by two characters, "Wind" and "Cloud". In unit one, "Wind and Cloud on a Journey", the five programmes are "Over the Sea", "Over the Desert", "Over the City", Over the Forest" and "Journey's End."

In unit two, "Beautiful Rain", the programmes are "Rain for the Desert", "Rain for the City", "Rain for the Stream", "Rain into Snow" and "The Whole Story".

New and familiar songs - 13 in all - illustrate and exercise a range of melodic and rhythmic techniques, as well as being easy to learn and sing. Particularly pleasing is that they will encourage children - and their teachers - to sing in tune, to explore the higher vocal register ("In a City", for example) to develop a good legato, ("Seaside Song") and to understand more complicated rhythms ("Fancy Anansi").

Singing, though, is only part of the purpose. Each programme tells a story, and provides an opportunity for listening to sounds - rain, wind, the sea - and sometimes for doing some actions. There is a continuing emphasis on contrasting pitches - the different theme tunes for "Cloud" and "Wind" show this - and on listening to rhythms, with the opportunity to use percussion instruments.

The supporting booklet is essential. The non-specialist teacher will find it a real prop through the lessons, and the more experienced colleague is bound to discover some new ideas.

Gerald Haigh

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