Singing the blues

4th June 2004 at 01:00
I know quite a lot about singing the blues and have passable performance skills, mainly because of my friendship with Billy Jenkins, a local blues musician. We agree the blues teaches triumph over adversity with dignity and compassion.

We decided to organise a large-scale performance and composition project for local primary and secondary schools. Primary schools in the area had enthusiastic but inexperienced staff, a few young instrumentalists and lots of pupils with little or no musical experience. Secondary schools were a mixed bag. I had 30 Year 10 GCSE pupils who needed to develop vocal confidence and improvisation skills. Neighbouring secondary schools identified GCSE pupils as a group they would like to do a project with. In addition I had A-level students who were keen to develop their workshop-leading skills with younger musicians.

Billy wrote two songs to be performed by a 120-strong group from two primary and five secondary schools. We had instrumental parts for all abilities, catchy tunes, daft lyrics and lots of improvisation. Having been introduced to the structure and shape of the blues, music GCSE pupils came up with their own compositions. We developed the performance in four 90-minute sessions, assisted by two local blues musicians who supplied the essential strong rhythm section.

We put on the performance at my school and the audience included parents, friends and colleagues. Participating schools were: Clare House Primary, Pickhurst Primary, St John Rigby Catholic College, Cator Park School for Girls, Darrick Wood School, Eltham Green Specialist Sports College and Langley Park School for Girls.

Maureen Batchelor

Advanced skills teacher and head of music, Langley Park School for Girls, Beckenham, Kent

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