Vocal range

31st January 1997 at 00:00
I read Gerald Haigh's article ("Music spread thy word around", TES, December 27) with great interest. I am a music co-ordinator in an inner-city primary school. Our recent Office for Standards in Education report judged music - and, in particular, singing - throughout the school to be a strength and a "unifying force".

Singing is encouraged throughout the school and my aim is to encourage the staff to have the confidence to sing with their own classes, despite the fact that they are not "experts". I would like to believe that singing in the school is enjoyed by everyone, staff and pupils alike.

Last year we were so enthused by the quality of our singing that for the first time we entered our choir in the heats of the "Music for Youth" competition.

We took about 55 children, clarinets, brass, tuned and untuned percussion and performed a medley of songs from and about Africa containing a wide variety of songs, including one in Zhosa, a four-part round, a two-part song and some gospel, linked by a percussion motif.

It was, I believe, original and vibrant and performed enthusiastically and to a standard of which the children and I were proud. It was apparent, however, that what our choir had to offer was not necessarily what was wanted by the judges.

Other groups offered technical perfection, utter adherence to the written music and a conventional repertoire - a stark contrast to our "Out of Africa" medley. Our adjudication was favourable yet contained, I felt, a hint of surprise, and I had to assure our conductor (not a trained musician) that paying attention to our hemiolas did not require medical, but rather musical, attention.

So, yes, there are schools that are trying to broaden singing in schools by incorporating many different kinds of music, yet still demanding a high standard.

Perhaps we should be looking forward, listening to our pupils more. And while recognising the merits of the classical choral tradition, we should recognise also that it is not necessarily the only way to achieve choral excellence.

DEBORAH STOATE 36 Heathclose Road Dartford Kent

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