Songs of praise

23rd January 1998 at 00:00
THE PRIMARY ASSEMBLY SONG BOOK. Edited by Gerald Haigh. pfp. Available from 23 Leckhampstead Road, Milton Keynes MK19 6BY #163;46.05 (inc VAT)

When DH Lawrence recalled the "Hymns in a Man's Life", he derided the "ghastly sentimentalism" of some of the singing in his chapel boyhood, but commended the sense of wonder that came from stirring tunes and powerful imagery. This new collection might not always escape the blemish of the sentimental, but it does its best to ensure young children's worlds are celebrated and blessed.

The 45 songs, by experienced teachers and composers, are arranged in 10 themes such as "school life", "religion" (without doctrinal or sectarian definition) and "ourselves".

They come with simple piano parts and guitar chords, as well as two useful CDs that provide both bare melodic lines for teaching the tune in class and fuller accompaniments.

There is an occasional laxity regarding rhyme (goldunfolds, passlast) as well as reliance on cliche ("summer and her glorious reign") and a high quota of collective exhortation and cloudy aspiration. The music covers a range of styles (including attractive examples of the editor's own work) with examples of blues, calypso and Latin rhythms.

The Primary Assembly Song Book will be deservedly popular and time-saving,but you could regret the disappearance of the "Ancient of Days who was Pavilioned in Splendour".

Tom Deveson is advisory teacher for music for the London Borough of Southwark

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