The sounds of music
Gerald Haigh reviews three packs that can help to make a school musical production memorable.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice certainly started something 30 years ago. Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat may not have been the very first popular musical for schools but it was certainly the one that established the genre. Since then, there must have been hundreds if you count the many self-published works that bring homegrown productions to a wider audience. Here are just three examples of many to be found at the Education Show.
Moving On is a millennium-inspired work, in effect a whistle-stop tour of the past 1,000 years divided into zones - eight altogether. Two children are taken through the zones by zone gnomes who appear from their crashed computer. Each zone has its own cast, which makes it possible to allocate sections to different classes and rehearse them independently - a huge plus point when time is short.
The songs are catchy, inventive and very suitable for primary children; some call for simple two-part singing, which the national curriculum encourages. The piano accompaniment is about grade 4, and there are guitar chords too.
My favourite song is Everybody's Talking, a take on the telephonic prattle of modern life.
The work has a Christian message - Jesus appears near the end and you could use the production to lead into the Nativity. To make life easy, the book contains separated lyric sheets, a full script and a CD or cassette with a bcking track and a full performance.
Around the World in a Thousand Years is also a tour of the millennium. It is aimed at a slightly higher age group - key stage 2 going into key stage 3.
The first thing to say about this musical is that it is very challenging to sing. This is not a criticism. There are some superb school choirs out there and it is good to see some meaty and yet enjoyable material being written for them. The 23 songs are varied, lively and will not tire in rehearsal. Do this piece well, as a major whole school or whole music centre production, and the audience will go away delighted.
This, too, is designed to be rehearsed in separate blocks and a helpful rehearsal planner is included in the book, together with other production notes. The score has guitar chords and a percussion part, but nothing for piano. There are two CDs, with backing and full performance tracks.
From the same publisher and writing team, The Shiniest Star is a Nativity musical for key stage 1 (though it would work well also for key stage 2) pupils. The key to a Nativity is "not a dry eye in the house" audience appeal, with heart-melting angels and magical moments around the manger. This has all that, and the dozen or so songs are very easy to sing. The half-spoken repeated "Twinkle, Sparkle" star motif sticks in the memory and will still be causing smiles the next day.
This one does have a piano part - about grade 3 - and a school-friendly rehearsal structure. Again, there is a backing CD and production notes.
Out of the Ark Music stand PV285
International Music Publications stand PV82