Cat. Number JBH049
Extraordinary music made by children at school. Buy it here
I’ve always collected albums made by schools. Most are terrible. A few are not. This is a collection of the more wonderous ones I have found.
Featured on the album are small primary school choirs or groups singing obscure folk songs to full-blown avant-garde experiments written and performed by children still at secondary or grammar school. As far as dating goes, the earliest recording is 1959, the latest 1977. It has taken a few years to put together just because the records are so hard to find. Also, for this very special project I used the artistic talents of Julian House for the sleeve, as he is a fellow collector and enthusiast of such recordings.
Here is a little history about some of the recordings included:
The album “Folk Group” by the Chelmsford High School girls was pressed in 1970 and is one of the more illusive folk-based albums to be found. A copy recently sold for a staggering amount on line. And I really do mean staggering.
The Nick Nack Kids were a group of London-based primary school children who were brought together for the singing on Malcolm Arnold’s classic 1958 score to The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness. Their song “ This Old Man” which is performed throughout the film proved such a hit globally that they made an album (produced by Jack Fishman). This is not strictly a privately pressed classroom album, but it dates from 1959 and has the naïve and boundless enthusiasm that I look for in recordings of this nature. I like its bounce and life, and Strawberry Fair is also a great number.
The Lyttle Folk come from Side A of a strange private album from 1966. Indeed little can be traced about this album apart from the fact that it was pressed by St Michael’s School, Burton Park, Petworth. The school closed in about 1990. The group consisted of five girls, two of them sisters.
Tracks 4, 9, 13, 14 and 21 were all overseen (but not reecorded) by John Paynter and Peter Aston. They are part of the Sounds And Silence LP that was produced in 1969 to act as a companion album to the book of the same name. These were intended as guides to creative projects in the classroom. Children who wrote and performed the recordings came from the following schools: Burnt Yates Endowed Scholl, Ripley, Yorkshire, The Jessie Younghusband County Primary School , Chichester, Park Boys’ County Secondary School, Moseley Grammar School, Birmingham, York Children’s Theatre Workshop, Bishop Otter College, Chichester and the University Of York. There are two pressings of this album, a UK one and a German version. Neither LP indicate who plays what and I am certainly not going to guess. Whether the goal of encouraging children to explore music more is difficult to say, but I have no doubt some of the recordings will have influenced anyone who listened or took part. Worth pointing out is The Lyke-Wake Dirge, where a group experiments with a traditional folk song to create an atmosphere of ritual and mystery. They certainly succeed. The track Musique Concrete was made using limited instruments and tape manipulation. And an Aleatory Game is a rule-based musical piece with pupils reacting to each other. The idea is to produce something of the same feeling “that we might derive from the play of light on water”.
Tracks 3 and 6 are also from the Paynter stable, coming via an educational EP. It was issued for the Hear And Now books, as an introduction to modern and exciting music in Schools. The track Autumn is quite a staggering bit of work and is one of Paynter’s best known pieces, based on Japanese haiku for classroom performance. Here it was performed by pupils from the Heslington Primary School, York. Considering the age of the children who recorded this version it really is extraordinary.
John Paynter and Peter Aston’s work in this field should not be underestimated. Their books and belief that music should be at the heart of the curriculum are still available but not as important as they should still be. Sound And Silence had a huge influence on classroom music, giving pupils the opportunity to take unorthodox approaches to making music. The ideas behind it were simple, encouraging exploration of 20th Century composers for new music making instead of the rather stagnated style of education involving group recorder lessons. Much more about Paynter and Aston can be found on line, and I encourage you to explore their work and influence a little more.
Hutton Middle School Choir is another unusual release, and was part of the City Of Bradford’s Traffic And Road Safety Unit’s Don’t Drink And Drive campaign. I believe the lyrics were written by members of the middle school, and the EP pressed would have been given out around the areas to help the campaign. The release is not dated but by the look and feels of it I’d estimate releases was around the mid to late 1970s. How successful it was is difficult to discover, but the school closed down in the year 2000.
The small choir of St Brandon’s school is also no longer. The school opened its doors way back in 1831 as a Clergy Daughter’s School, and shut it’s doors in 2004. The Bright Eyes release dates from 1981 as part of the school’s 150th anniversary.
Robert Gittings organized the recording of three albums worth of songs, poetry and music written by children in 1968. The three albums called The Searching Years pretty much disappeared into the schools that were involved and rarely resurface these days. All three were produced by Peter Myers and were published by AudioVision in Oxford, a company that dissolved decades ago. Little can be found about some of the recordings, but I can tell you that tracks 10, 12 and 19 were written and performed by children aged 8 to 11. Track 8, Song Of The Shadows for choir and accompaniment was by Christopher Tophill, aged 13, with words by Walter De La Mare. Track 25, Humoresque, was composed by Graeme Quinton-Jones aged 12. Track 15, Duet For Two Flutes was by Jill Whitehead (aged 17) of the Rochester Grammar School. Track 18, Piece For Oboe And Piano, was composed by Rhoda Ashfield aged 17 and played by John Alley and Stephen Gates. Track 23 was written by Peter Brewis, aged 17, from King’s School, Rochester.
Shirley Salzedo was recorded at Northwood School in Hillingdon in 1977. Having communicated with Shirley I found out she kept busy with the piano and not only is she a successful piano teacher but also has composed and produced a set of music CDs made for children (go to http://www.magicpiano.co.uk) Also, she told me that music is very much in her blood – her grandfather was Victor Hollaender and she is the niece of German film composer Friedrich Hollaender. Her great uncle is Gustav Hollaender, who founded the Stern Conservatory in Berlin. The piano she uses is the very same Steinway that was used by Victor and upon which Friedrich composed the music for Blue Angel (that starred Marlene Dietrich) as well as countless scores and songs including the score to The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr.T.
1. Intro By Robert Gittings
2. Portland Town – Folk Group (Chelmsford County High School)
3. Examples of 12 note melodies – Heslington Primary School
4. Music For Cymbals – Sounds And Silence
5. Puppets - Piece For Solo Piano – The Searching Years No.1
6. Autumn– Heslington Primary School
7. Bright Eyes - The Small Choir Of St. Brandon’s School
8. The Song Of The Shadows – Christopher Tophill
9. An Aleatory Game – Sounds And Silence
10. Action Beat – Improvised Piece For Two Xylophones and Drums - The Searching Years No.1
11. A’ Soalin’ - The Lyttle Folk
12. Little Henrietta – Searching Years No.1
13. Musique Concrete – Sounds And Silence
14. Alleluia - Sounds And Silence
15. Duet For Two Flutes – Jill Whitehead
16. Strawberry Fair – The Nick Nack Kids
17. Busy Streets – Hutton School Choir
18. Piece For Oboe And Piano - Rhoda Ashfield
19. Piece For String Quartet - Searching years No.1
20. Jimmy Whalen - The Lyttle Folk
21. The Lyke-Wake Dirge – Sounds And Silence
22. 1st Movement Of Sonata In A By Scarlatti – Shirley Salzedo
23. The Lonely Coast- Peter Brewis
24. Don’t Drink And Drive - Hutton School Choir
25. Humoresque – Piece For Solo Piano and Flute - Graeme Quinton-Jones