It was 1958 and Anna had been posted to a school as a student teacher. She was 16 years old and had not long left school herself. Her training as a real teacher had yet to begin.
Not yet in charge but simply as an observer, Anna tried to make herself look inconspicuous in the classroom of ten-year-olds as she became fascinated with the way the teacher (he who was in charge) started his students singing.
He picked up a tuning fork, hit it on the side of his desk and, copying the note it uttered, sang, ‘Sing C’. The students all answered (voicing the same note) ‘C’.
The teacher followed with (down the scale) ‘C,B,A,G’ to which the children answered in same.
Then, teacher: ‘Call G do’ (pronounced, ‘doe’)
Teacher: (up and down scale): ‘do, mi, so, mi, do, so, do, (repeating) do, so’
and held that note for a second, following which the students began singing a song, beginning on that note, ‘When birds have gone to rest….’
Anna had spent many hours singing as a schoolgirl but had never known how to find a starting note using a tuning fork and she loved what she saw.
In another section of the school, on another day, Anna is in a large room with about 150 small children and four or five teachers, one of whom sits at a piano.
The piano player hits a few notes and the children start singing: ‘Good morning, good morning and how do you do…’. When that song is finished the teacher at the font of the large groups suggests another song and the pianist quickly finds the music, plays a short intro and the children joyously sing a song about the weather.
Then follows a song about a frog before it’s time to sing ‘happy birthday’ to a couple of children. After the obligatory claps for the birthday boy and girl, another child is ushered up to the front and the children all join in singing a song about the blessings of a new baby. (This is 1958, remember).
More whole group singing follows and, after about 30 minutes, time is up and children are ready to return to classrooms for work. They all march out of the assembly room, singing as they go, ‘He’s only a one-legged soldier…’ (a favourite!)
Fast forward to 1965 and Anna, now a fully qualified teacher for the past three years, is at the front of her own class of five-year-olds.
‘Good morning, good morning and how do you do..’ she sings along with the children.
Then, ‘It’s a windy day today, the clouds are flying across the sky…’ they sing about the weather.
‘What shall we sing now?’ she asks and children raise their hands with suggestions.
Several more songs follow. After the morning singing session is over the children are ready for work and happiness reigns.
Fast forward a long way now and it’s the 1980s.
Anna sits at a piano in a large classroom – all furniture pushed back to make room for nearly 100 children from the first three classes.
Anna strikes up a few notes and the children sing, ‘Good morning, good morning…’
Thirty minutes and a dozen or so joyous songs later, the children skip back to their classrooms, ready for the day’s work.
For quite some years, as Anna teaches at that particular school she manages to have a piano in her classroom. Her class sings every morning. ‘We have to start the day with a song’, is her mantra. Other classes often join in.
Now…fast forward to 2010.
Anna has retired from teaching but occasionally helps out as a ‘relief teacher’.
She sometimes visits the school where she made sure there was always a piano for her to play.
There is no sign of the piano and Anna is too polite to ask its whereabouts.
There is also no sound of singing coming from any classroom.
It is the same in another school she visits.
No music, no singing.
In a class of nine-year-olds one day, Anna says, ‘Let’s start the day with a song!’
The children look at her; some giggle, some mutter under their breath, ‘what?’
She tries to coax a song out of them, but it’s hopeless and she gets out the work sheets instead.
It is then that Anna begins to wonder about where the songs and the singing have gone.
Less than ten years ago, you would have heard children singing in this school; less than a century ago there was a time when EVERYONE used to sing. People sang around the piano. They sang at school and church. They sang around campfires and just sang around the home.
Certainly there are some schools nowadays where children sing. There is still some singing in churches and I’m sure campfire songs can still be heard – but all occasionally and more organised and not as a normal part of every day as once was.
You’d have to have been hiding under a brick to have missed what has been said about music and singing over the years. How it helps children in their daily lives and even aids the ability to master mathematics!
Here’s a quote from USA educational website: ‘exposing children to music stimulates their overall intelligence and emotional development’…Wow, how’s that?
And this, from (creativity Australia – sing for good)
‘Research has proven time and time again that singing is great for mental health and general wellbeing, and connects communities. Singing together changes the brain’
We could spend days researching the benefits of singing, but here’s a list (from the Internet) to sumarize:
Ten reasons to make singing your drug of choice, to:
Is it television and electronic devices that have stopped the singing? Is it just the busy-ness of modern life? What is it?
Have you noticed how depression is a common condition in children and adults in ever increasing numbers? They're not singing, are they?
Have you noticed the tuneless ‘raps’ that seem to have replaced a lot of (real) music for the younger generation?
No singing in our lives can be dangerous.
Think about it.
Have you ever found joy in singing with a group or family, an old song such as ‘I’ve been working on the railroad..’? Can you remember doing that?
Think about it.
So, come on teachers, parents…come on everyone.
Let’s start the day with a song - and change the world!
‘Sing C’. ………..
PS: When searching for and illustration of children singing together, I found mainly old-fashioned pictures. I guess that says it all!
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.