One of the nice things about writing a blog is that every now and again you can indulge yourself and simply express a personal view. This post has relevance I think to the contemporary culture that our pupils inhabit and to the kind of lessons we might create for them.
Hopefully it might encourage teachers across the curriculum to think about how to include a 'community' song or chant as a normal part of their lessons.
I came across this video of a wonderful choir called Perpetuum Jazzile so first, sit back and enjoy this before reading any further! All language is a communal experience - singing together proves it.
Before I saw this video I had been looking at Eric Whitacre's virtual choir beautifully singing 'Sleep'. I was treated to the obligatory ad which in this case was promoting a new album by the X-Factor runner up 'Cher'.
The juxtaposition of all that X-Factor promotes, sometimes agressive vaunting of the individual vocal star, set against Perpetuum Jazzile's ability to blend a range of voices into a very clever performance was telling.
Whilst like anyone else, I love a good Diva, for singing, solo effort isn't the norm. The name X-Factor should be a clue, it's the unsusual X-ception not the rule. For 99% of the rest of the world, enjoying singing is something that everyone can do as part of a group.
I have an ok singing voice. Actually to be more precise, it's ok if I ask it to perform solo. It's actually much better when I sing with others. Solo, and I have to pretend that it is something it isn't, that it has a wide range which it hasn't.
It's actually very good in the baritone range but pretty rubbish in the tenor range. However the only way I am ever going to understand this and appreciate my particular contribution is to sing with others.
I think we need a cultural counter-balance to the 'Diva' factor for our children. If they grow up thinking that singing is all about 'solo' brilliance and performance then they will never benefit from the amazing satisfaction that can come from singing with others. Understanding that sharing your individual voice in harmony with many others within your particular range is a deeply satisfying experience is a vital lesson we need to pass on to our children.
I believe that singing together is an essential part of living together as communities. It has been one of the glues that have bonded tribes since the dawn of time. Sharing a common song has always been a mark of identity. It is something personally I feel we need to recover far more widely in western society.
In September I'm talking at a Modern Languages Show and Tell at Cramlington Learning Village just north of Newcastle. I decided that I wanted to talk more about the whole concept of building class cohesion and identity through songs and chants.
My own limited experience of trying some of these ideas out have deeply impressed me with the response from the children and the positive atmosphere they help establish in lessons. The title of my talk is "The Singing Tribe - MFL class cohesion" so if you want to know a bit more maybe I will see you there.
The format is a little like a Teachmeet but this is for the whole day so the talks might last from 3 minutes to longer than the Teachmeet 7 minutes. You get to hear fantastic talks from some top people working in modern languages in the UK for FREE!
As an added incentive, the host for the day is Chris Harte and I understand that this will be his swan song as he is about to leave the UK for Australia. If you have never heard Chris speak, this will possibly be a last chance for a while. Get there if you can, I highly recommend it. Click here to find out more.