25th February 2000 at 00:00
THE SINGING AND ACTING HANDBOOK. By Thomas de Mallet Burgess and Nicholas Skilbeck. Routledge pound;12.99

Music and drama brought together are more than the sum of their constituent parts. As the authors of this persuasive and enlightening work show, music provides at least a framework of time while drama provides intimations of the real world; when their energies are combined, something is created which shows new human possibilities to both performers and observers.

The main purpose of the book, which is suitable mainly for teachers of pupils older than key stage 2 and more particularly those working with young adults, is to bring between two covers more than 100 activities that will enable performers to develop the skills of combined singing and acting. These activities lie somewhere in the area between games and disciplines. They are mainly enjoyable to do - though some carry a risk of embarrassment or failure which is signalled in the text - but they also make the participants work at and learn through their pleasure.

To begin with there are general exercises that promote relaxation, concentration, breath control, imaginative spontaneity and the sense of working with others. Then come ways to work with rhythms, to use a variety of texts and to explore the relation between character, movement and sound.

Some of these might be used or adapted for quite young children; others need some degree of adult awareness. But all can forge vital links in the chain between composers, performers and us all.


CD and booklet. Produced by Unknown Public for the English Folk Dance and Song Society, pound;18Available from Root and Branch, Dept PU01, Freepost (RG 2558), PO Box 354, Reading RG1 5ZZ Tel: 0207 402 2789 Fax: 0118 931 2582

This is a fascinating and unusual package for secondary schools and adults. It is more than a CD, although the CD contains a rich variety of recordings, some from the archives, some specially mae for this pioneering introduction to what should be a successful series. It is more than a booklet, though the accompanying explanatory and documentary materials reflect a good measure of musical and cultural history. It is something like the old Jackdaw folders, taking as its focus a set of 20 songs about people uprooted from their spiritual or physical heritage. The music's origins are in Britain. Though it has been transformed as it has travelled to the Americas or Australia, it remains unforgettably at home in the listener's mind.

A KEYS, CHORDS amp; CADENCES WORKBOOK. By Neil Starling. Champion House Press pound;20 including cassette

This is a useful compilation for students preparing for the aural perception paper at A-level. It puts into one book and on to one audio cassette something that would take teachers hours to compile.

Using recordings made from keyboards, it provides exercises in listening skills and then sets a number of practice tests. Beginning with simple distinctions between major and minor, it moves through a variety of modulations, through dominants, subdominants and inversions to a whole range of cadences - not just the usual four, but also the Phrygian and the Tierce de Picardie.

The examples are drawn from the classical canon and from folk-song.

MACBETH: the Rock Opera. By Clarry Evans and Judy Stevens

CDs and libretto Radical IT Solutions Free evaluation pack,Tel: 07801 477211 www.boadicea.commacbeth

Macbeth: the Rock Opera is something of a ghost from the 1970s. It uses an odd mixture of authentic Shakespearean dialogue and crude approximations. To go from a lyrical setting of "too full of the milk of human kindness" to the factitious rhyme "compassion after all is only blindness" is sheer anti-climax.

The effect is undoubtedly one of drive and animation, but at the expense of the play's characteristic and devastating ambiguity. Try it, though; the play's strong enough to survive.


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