Nativity plays

17th November 2000 at 00:00
NURSERY RHYME NATIVITY. By Alison Hedger. Golden Apple Productions. Music Sales, 89 Frith St, London W1V 5TZ. Tel: 020 7434 0066 pound;.9.95 (incl CD). THE VERY HOPELESS CAMEL. By Caroline Hoile. Grumpy Sheep Music, 13 Park Head Road, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DH Tel: 0191 2399229 pound;14.50 (incl CD). THE SHINIEST STAR. By Sara Ridgley and Gavin Mole. IMP Ltd pound;12.99 (incl CD) Tel: 020 8222 9222

Musical nativity stories pour unstoppably from the presses, all aspiring to achieve that blend of tradition and idiosyncrasy that will mean popular success. For key stage 1, Alison Hedger has written new words to traditional tunes. Some, like Sing a Song of Shepherds, help bring the familiar characters onstage. Others, like Mary Mary, Mother of Jesus afford quieter moments for reflection on the story. The CD provides lively backing tracks for schools that lack a confident pianist, and the whole package makes for an easily learned and attractive performance.

Also for young children, The Very Hopeless Camel features a beast whos wrong-footed attempts to do the right thing get him to the manger only by accident. There are six songs of which the jaunty Wiggle the Hump! is likely to prove the most popular. Horrid Herod provides some opportunities to be dramatically inimical while getting in some threatening but not-too-scary F minor emphases. There is also a place for children to improvise with untuned percussion to produce swaying effects, and a syncopated procession of Imperial census-fodder en route to Bethlehem.

The Shiniest Star is a more elaborate production. Though this, too, is aimed at key stage 1 children, it offers a dozen different numbers written by a pair of music theatre experts. One feature of the book - a set of charts for checking who sayscarrieswearsdoes what will save teachers' tempers as planning time becomes ever more elusive. The extensive plot allows many pupils to take part, as narrators, Roman soldiers and so on. You need a licence to perform this, but it will add up to a quasi-professional show.

Tom Deveson

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