Let your song loose on the world;TES Campaign;Music for the Millennium;Anthem for the Millennium

5th March 1999 at 00:00
Here's how to make the TES's Anthem for the Millennium your own. Teachers can encourage pupils of all ages to sing out, with the help of easy-to-follow suggestions from Mark Withers and Gerald Haigh

Much interesting work can be generated from a simple song. These notes show how you can use Debbie Wiseman and Don Black's work as a starting point for exploring a range of performing and creative techniques.

The notes have two aims - first to help you understand and explain the structure of the song, and second to enable you to use that understanding to develop some creative ideas, based on the song, with your pupils.

We are providing a start - many other ideas will come to mind as you work; children may well want to write their own songs, for instance.

Learning the song.

1 The structure.

It seems quite long, doesn't it? Don't worry, there is much less to learn than you might think. So, before wading in, look carefully at how it is put together. You may make as many photocopies of the score on pages 6-7 as you need.

Even if you don't read music, keep referring to the score because you will be able to see how the music moves up and down, and its relationship to the words.

If we divide the song into sections, the first section consists of the tune to these opening words: There's only one of you You are as diff'rent as the moon is to the sea And I want to get to know you I want to get to show you my world We will call this section A. It must be important to the song because as soon as it is finished, it starts all over again, with different words. We get a break for a few bars and then back it comes yet again, at bar 32.

So, only half way through the song we have already had section A three times. It will be back.

This phrase is the key to the song. In fact most songs work in the same way - with a key section that is repeated.

What you commonly have is a main section, or tune, which comes twice, then a new one -called the "middle eight" as it almost always lasts eight bars - and then that main phrase again.

If we call the "middle eight" section B, this means that many songs have the structure AABA. Bear this pattern in mind if and when you or your pupils write your own songs. It makes for a manageable creative task, using limited material to advantage.

"There's Only One of You" is basically an AABA song, with some added variations. It first gives us AABA, then we have a short section which can be just instrumental, but which has some optional words, and then A comes back again, pitched a bit higher and stretched out to provide an ending.

This sort of "stretched" ending is called a Coda. If we call the instrumentaloptional words section C, and the Coda A*, we can describe the whole song thus AABACA* 2 Learning the song.

If you leave out the optional words for the moment you see that there are really only two phrases to learn - A and B.

(The Coda, A* only needs a little extra work.) The way to teach it is first to learn it yourself, and then be prepared to sing it to your pupils. Confidence is more important here than a beautiful singing voice. Do it like this:

* Listen to A a few times - play it through, or hear it on the CD. It splits up easily into four chunks: 1 There's only one of you 2 You are as diff'rent as the moon is to the sea 3 And I want to get to know you 4 I want to get to show you my world * Sing the first of these chunks to your class and ask them to sing it back to you. Keep doing it until it comes right. They won't all get it first time but it won't take long.

* Do the same for each chunk. When the children can do the second one, go back and include the first one. Build the chunks together until you get the whole phrase as one.

Once you have A comfortably, it will be easy to learn it with different words. Then skip to the end of the song: to A*. Play or sing this to your class. Ask how it is different from A. It is a bit higher (a tone to be exact) and chunks 3 and 4 get repeated before a final new chunk is added to the end.

You now have everything except the middle eight and the optional section. Again split these into chunks and use the call and response technique to learn them.

3 Try it with the CD.

Now you have all the ingredients assembled, run it through a few times with the recording or with piano to get used to the length of the instrumental passages that come between the phrases. You are then ready to go a step further.

Arranging the song.

A composer's material is often arranged so as to personalise the music for a particular well-known singer or even for a primary school class. The two obvious things to add are backing vocals and instrumental patterns.

1 Backing vocals.

When a well-known singer stands at the front of the stage punching out a song, you often see a little group of other singers further back, round a microphone, pitching in with short phrases and supporting tunes. They are providing backing vocals. Just as their material is drawn from the song itself, so you and the children can draw some backing vocals from this song.

You do this by taking tiny fragments of music from the song, and then repeating them at various places over (or behind) the song as it is being sung. They may get transformed a bit but they remain basically the same.

For instance, take the two-note phrase for the word "only" as it appears at the beginning of the song (bar 5). This fits really well if it is sung four times (perhaps quietly to "doooo-duh") once over each of the four bars of the introduction. You will be sure to find other places it could go, perhaps just slightly changed.

You will, without much difficulty, find other fragments and further interesting ways to use them. There are only two rules to follow. First, keep the fragments quite short. Second, if it sounds good, it is right. Be guided by your ear. However, don't fill the song out too much at this stage because you will want to leave room for backing instrumentals.

2 Backing instrumentals.

These work in exactly the same way. Frequently a pattern will be repeated continuously (we call this a riff or an ostinato). For example, if you feel able, you can experiment with tuned percussion - try some of the patterns in the bass line on a low-pitched xylophone or metallophone. And try transcribing some of the two-note piano chords for two players on a glockenspiel.

If you can't do this, then work on the rhythms, using a drum, for example, or a tambourine. Try the rhythm of the very beginning of the introduction on a drum. It will sound great, and you will be amazed how much you can use it and other patterns that you might find in the song.

For example the rhythm of the piano part in bar 23 could go almost anywhere. As with the vocals, it is the simple ideas that work the best.

3 Put your arrangement together.

This will be much more flexible if you are using piano or guitar accompaniment rather than singing with the CD. With the CD you will have the problem of making sure that all the parts can be heard easily. You will also have to work with the length of the recorded version.

With your own accompaniment - piano, or guitar, perhaps with classroom instruments - you might consider any of the following ideas.

* Perform the first 22 bars with instruments only, then go back and add voices the second time.

* Think of starting the song quietly and reflectively and building it up. There are various ways of doing this - using a solo voice, or a small group, or varying the number of instruments in the accompaniment.

* Extend the introduction so we hear all the patterns in the instrumental part before the voice comes in.

The important thing is to be flexible in your approach - and remember to give your children the freedom to make performance suggestions. By this stage I hope the message is clear: if you want to change something and it sounds better that way, you are doing the right thing.

Ears are much more useful than rules when it comes to arranging a song.

Performing and Recording 'There's Only One of You'.

Having got this far, you deserve the thrill of performing as often as possible. Here are a few hints to make it go with a swing:

* In rehearsal, try not to stop. Run the song through, deal with any problems and then run it through again. It's really frustrating to the children if you keep stopping to make small corrections.

* Ask someone in your class to play the part of the audience during rehearsals to check that it all sounds OK - paying particular attention to the balance between instruments and voices.

* Make sure the words are clear.

* Pay attention to how the performance will look as well as to how it will sound. Be creative about this - can you place soloists on a different level? Could you arrange the choir on blocks and staging so that they are not just in straight lines?

* Can you provide someone to perform the song in sign language? Or can all the children sign the song, perhaps in Makaton?

* Consider letting some children work out an evocative dance to add to, or accompany, the song.

* Get used to bluffing. Things go wrong for the most experienced performers. Usually a good professional will just carry on and, nine times out of 10, the audience will never know that disaster struck.

If you are recording lFind, beg or borrow the best microphone you can. This will make a vast difference to the final sound. In the dream world, a stereo microphone would be ideal.

* If you have a choice of room to record in, use the one that has the least resonance. For some reason resonance sounds much better live than on tape. A carpeted room will be the best.

* Leave plenty of silence at the beginning and end of the song so that all the sound has the chance to die away.

* Position everyone carefully. The chances are that you will want the main singers closest to the microphone with the backing singers nearby and the instruments behind. Check the balance of the sound before settling down to record.

Making a new piece.

"There's Only One of You" actually started life as a piece called "Conversation for Orchestra". To make the song, Debbie Wiseman took the main ideas from the orchestral piece and put them together differently so they work as a song.

It would be a fascinating piece of creative work for you and your class to do the same thing in reverse - take the components of the song and make your own orchestral or classroom instrumental piece.

Here is a quick, step-by-step guide to a new piece:

* Select three or four short fragments that you like from the song.

* Try these out on whatever instruments you have available.

* Experiment with transforming fragments. How do they sound higher, lower, faster, slower, backwards, repeated. Anything you like.

* Try using two instruments to talk to each other using versions of the fragments in Debbie's piece.

* Try making some of the patterns into ostinati as we used before for the backing instrumentals in the song. These ostinati could form an ideal background to the musical conversations.

* Decide on the overall shape of the piece. For instance, it could start quietly with one ostinato, build up with more and more patterns joining in and louder and louder conversations until it reaches a big climax. Or you could start gently, build and then go back down again. Or you could start with a bang using everything at once and then separate out the elements.

It really is up to you.

Now you have the structure and all the material that you will need to fill it in. Build your piece!

* Try it out and make any changes you may want to make.

* Try it out again and make any further changes you may want to make.

* Listen to the original piece on the CD. It may suggest yet more alterations.

* Have a practice or two at playing it.

Then -let it loose on the world.

Mark Withers is a freelance clarinet player and animateur. He has been education director of the Halle Orchestra, and runs educational projects for orchestras and opera companies, including the London Symphony Orchestra and Children's Music Workshop.

Gerald Haigh was once a headteacher and is an experienced choral director, a writer and composer of songs for children and a regular adjudicator at the National Festival of Music for Youth

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today