Sarah Morgan & Carolyn Robson

CHARM was our Guest at the end of September 2007, and we were very pleased to have two members of the group participating in our Education Programme, introducing them to COMBS Middle School, Stowmarket, Suffolk.

The Way Through The Woods

I love to hear large masses singing; a good, rousing song sung in chorus or as a rousing anthem can give you that back of the neck feeling. The actual song is not always relevant - it's more the collective harmony that inspires. The Everyman Folk Club embodies that spirit and you can see why the likes of Sarah Morgan and Carolyn Robson are invited along to Benhall for such memorable evenings. Children singing in school is as old as blackboards and easels (whatever they were!), and that too can be an uplifting sound. Put two accomplished songsters together with young voices and you have the natural ingredients for an aural treat.

Thus, thanks to Suffolk Folk, the Everyman Folk Club, and the Big Music Nights and a lucky late cancellation, we at Combs were able to enjoy not one but two days of support from this duo. It did indeed prove fortuitous from the school's perspective because it enabled a whole year group to experience Sarah and Carolyn's collective expertise. Half the year group therefore, approximately sixty children, had their workshop on day one, whilst the remainder had their experience on the Friday.

The theme for both days was The Way Through The Woods, which looked at the symbolism and stories relating to trees as well as elements of Social History and the uses of trees. The children had done some prior work ahead of the day and produced some fine imaginative and creative writing for Sarah and Carolyn. Some pieces were incorporated into the presentation made to the whole school at the end of the day.

The children were taken on a vocal journey through the myths and legends of tree culture and were taught a range of songs to perform. And yes, they did perform. Our pupils sang two or three part harmonies, and they all retained that focus and effort throughout the session. What was significant from my point of view was that these were not hand-chosen pupils who would have turned up to sing the Spanish national anthem had they been asked (and, yes, I know, there are no words to the Spanish anthem!), but a complete class of different talents and variable lengths of concentration.

The sum total was a half hour performance by half the year group to the remainder of the school at the end of day one. I can tell you, it is one thing to sing along and enjoy the company of your mates and quite another to perform in front of 400 plus. To their immense credit the youngsters, not only sang beautifully - they retained the focus of the audience throughout.

Day two saw a similar pattern evolve, although having seen their colleagues perform so admirably on the previous day, there was a touch of rivalry present. As it transpired, this group had listened intensely to the previous day's performance and were determined to put on a better show. To me the success was down to the enjoyment and energy that prevailed over both days. The climax on both days was the hearty rendition of the Prickle Eye Bush; a song which, by popular demand, would be adopted as the school anthem! However, the sentiments expressed in the song would not be deemed appropriate I feel!

Thanks once again to Suffolk Folk, the Everyman Folk Club, and the Big Music Nights for enabling us to benefit from such 'gifts' as Carolyn and Sarah. We have a new Coordinator of Music at school and she was highly impressed with the whole day. It showed that enjoyment can be created through the oldest instrument known to man, ie the human voice. Attendance at the subsequent choir practice rose by 25%. Need I say more?

Ian Crissell, Combs Middle School - 10.10.07