Sing a lively number

1st June 2001 at 01:00
SINGING NUMBERS.plus CD. By Eileen Diamond. IMP. From music shops, order ref: 9016A. pound;12.99.

Available from TES Direct10 pound;120 MUSIC EXPLORER FOR INFANTS. plus CD. By Richard McNicol. pound;10.99. London Symphony Orchestra, LSO Discovery, Barbican Centre London EC2Y 8DS. Tel: 020 7588 1116.

The very young make music naturally; bringing new music to them is a privilege as well as a benefit. Eileen Diamond's trustworthy ear is evident in her latest collection of songs, which features mathematical topics for three to seven-year-olds. She gives her singers the chance to count in twos, threes, fours and fives, to count backwards and in French. They can feel how the pulse of the music accommodates varying numerical models and how the music itself reflects some of the features it describes.

Teachers can adapt the songs and substitute other patterns without violating rhyme or rhythm. The activities, from choosing groups of partners to devising accompaniments, add a memorable physical dimension to the wor of mouths and minds.

Richard McNicol has for many years been one of the pioneering and inspiring figures in music education. His mission to bring orchestral players and young performers and composers together is excitingly renewed in the Discovery pack. Each CD track is linked to an area of musical experience, such as timbre, speed, dynamic change, echoes, textures and the division of time into units. The world of Bizet and Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov and Vaughan Williams is matched with that of maracas and chime bars.

Activities cover accompaniment, reacting through movement and telling stories, making body shapes and finding time to rest and listen. These ideas have been tried out in nurseries and classrooms; they involve all areas of learning as defined in the QCA's curriculum guidance for the foundation years. McNicol's unquenchable enthusiasm is evident on every page of the simple yet unpatronising teacher's guide. It is enthusiasm not just for music but for life.

Tom Deveson


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