Developing Singing Matters reviewed in the Times Educational Supplement

Tom Deveson 22/10/1999

 

An age of anxiety;Books;Reviews;Subject of the week;Music and the arts

 

SONGSCAPE. By Lin Marsh. Faber. Teacher's book. £19.95. Pupil's book £2.50, or £19.95 for 10.

DEVELOPING SINGING MATTERS. By Patrick Allen. Heinemann. £49.99.

Tom Deveson welcomes song collections for teenagers that hit just the right note.

Two inspirational teachers have produced new compilations of songs for secondary schools. Lin Marsh's 24-piece collection includes seven of her own which deal expressively with matters of concern to teenagers, such as war, the death of the Princess of Wales, or the urge to flee the constraints of family life (the latter with a slight debt to Lennon and McCartney's "She's Leaving Home").

She also gives a broad welcome to songs from Borneo and Kenya and to composers from Arne to Abba, as well as a number of early rounds. Most are about dreams and feelings rather than clear-cut love songs. The characteristic form is that of a clear melodic line with backing vocals. For example, the 1990 hit "From a Distance" is given in a version for two groups who communicate, appropriately, with one another and with the audience. Lin Marsh also provides thoughtful and practical guidance on possible instrumental accompaniment

Patrick Allen has followed his Singing Matters (which won the TES Secondary Schoolbook Award for 1999) with another substantial set of singing projects. Once again, there is a generous catholicity, with beautiful examples of British folksongs ("She Moved Through the Fair", "Waly Waly"), others from Borneo and South Africa, a 14th-century Ave Maria, a piece of Tudor sprightliness, and hits by sixties favourites such as the Mamas and the Papas and Jeff Beck as well as more recent heart-throbs like Hanson and Boyzone.

Some of Allen's choices will provide good vocal challenges for pupils up to the age of 18. He too provides immensely detailed and adept advice on everything from promoting choral work among boys who might reject it as uncool, to the effect of cannabis on the larynx and the positioning of microphone stands. He writes from experience and with enthusiasm.