Singing Matters Leonora Davies in Music Teacher, September 1998
Singing Matters by Patrick Allen is a very timely and welcome resource. Singing is not as evident as it should be in key stage 3 classrooms..in part because it can be tricky to find appropriate and appealing materials. Allen approaches the development of vocal skills and the voice as one should with developing skills on any other instrument. The introduction addresses issues ranging from creating a singing environment to warm-up activities and games. Thirty singing projects focus on different styles of singing, how best to accompany and how best to perform. Material is pitched at a range comfortable for most pupils and most parts can be sung in any octave, thus tackling the problem of changing and changed voices. The explanatory teachers’ notes are clearly set out and include advice on posture and attitude, organizing the classroom and structuring the lesson, as well as harmony and part singing using the computer and accompaniments.
The teacher led vocal exercises help to exercise the diaphragm and jaws, develop tone and help articulation and singing in tune. There are useful suggestions for improvising over looped backings, round a mode, or over an ostinato or chord sequence before we even arrive at the projects. These encompass an amazingly wide repertoire, which includes two Schubert songs ‘rock and roll partners’, two renaissance songs, various African chants and the official England football song from Euro 96. What more could you want? Each project is presented in the same format with some source information and guidance on the style of singing, teaching and performing the material as well as suggestions for follow up work. The final section addresses the wider social context of singing and includes chants, rounds and songs for coach trips, camp fires, parties and other social gatherings. I am delighted to note that the versions of ‘Land of My fathers’ and ‘All through the Night’ include the Welsh text and ‘Danny Boy’ is in a key that most of us can pitch!
Best Laid Schemes
Michael Burnett in Music Teacher November 1999
Moving on to curriculum performance materials, it’s good to find singing being taken seriously by some publishers…’I have attended many courses on singing in school, which bear no relation to the children I teach’, says Patrick Allen. ‘I decided to shelve the advice and begin by studying my pupils rather than high-flown ideas intended for a handful of elite singers.’ The result is Singing Matters, a collection of 30 singing projects containing over a hundred songs, together with rounds, chants and social songs which are realistically tailored to the secondary classroom, not least in pitch. Repertoire id more varied than We Will Sing!, with pop and world music more prominent, and each project provides information on the song(s) and notes on teaching and performing them. Significant advantages, in terms of management of the materials, are that many songs are provided with flexible vocal and/or instrumental accompaniments for student performance, and that suggestions for follow up can link the resources with other curriculum work