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 SINGING & THE SCHOOL SONG

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A School Song of the 1950s

  

I am not sure when a school song was first introduced at the school and how long it lasted but there was certainly under Frank Newsome's headship of the 1950s. It was a relatively short hymn and thanks to Martin Beale (Whitstable), we can reproduce the words below.... 

 

God be in my head
And in my understanding
God be in my eyes
And in my looking
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking
God be at my end
And at my departing.

(Walford Davies) 

 

It was sung at every assembly with the much feared Mr. Hardy accompanying on the school piano.

However, it was not without its problems of mispronunciation, misinterpretation and misapprehenison. The thought that God might be "at my end" was a quite disturbing development. Furthermore, having learned the words "parrot fashion", the best I could make of the last line was "...And at mighty parting". This was always accompanied by a swift glance at the back of Mr.Hardy's barren scalp as he caressed the ivories with his back to his minions!      

 

An Emphasis on Singing in 1950s

  

In fact, during the post war years there was quite a heavy emphasis on singing as a temporary refuge from academic work. It seemed that every year group had its musical teacher and political correctness was still very much a thing of the future.....

 

In my first year at the school (1956/57), singing was obligatory for the top two streams. Thus, Class 1A and 1B were temporarily united under a Mrs Cooper for renditions of dubious classics such as Frère Jacques.

However, it seems that not all was up to scratch after the first crack at it all. As a result, Mrs Cooper suddenly appeared in our classroom on a non-music day and asked Class 1A to sing. She then moved around the room and placed her ear within 6" of each mouth in turn. At intervals, she scribbled down a name and, at the end of the performance, she disappeared as swiftly and elegantly as she had arrived. Mr Lawrence resumed our lesson without further comment.

Like Pike in the classic "Don't tell him Pike" episode of Dad's Army, the boy next to me was suffering a panic attack of "Corporal Jones" proportions. His name had been noted!

Being a kindly boy, I attempted to allay his fears by telling him that he "had probably been chosen for a new school choir".... even though I knew that there was more chance of a male hippopotamus making it into a the Beverley Sisters during an attack of bronchitis. 

In reality, I knew he was "for the chop". I didn't know what sort of "chop"... but it was going to be "the chop" nevertheless.

It was several days before the truth was revealed and the Singing Hippo was chopped. In fact, it came during the next music lesson when Mrs Cooper read out her list of names..... and, to the raucous approval of the class, declared the owners to be "Grunters and Groaners" who would sit out a song or two!

No choir, then... just the chop. It was all very forthright in those days.

Dave Taylor
Whistable   

  

In the 1950s, pursuit of musical perfection wasn't restricted to the first year....

 

In my second year at the school (1957/58), I moved to class 2A under the guidance of another music enthusiast... Mr. Len Hake.

Enthusiasm was infectious. If a teacher showed enthusiasm for a subject, it assumed massive significance in the minds of his/her charges. It also led to esteem... or, in my case, considerable disappointment.

Mr Hake regularly took Classes 2A and 2B for joint singing lessons. His classroom wasn't big enough to accommodate two classes and kids sat on desktops. In those days, the desks were arranged in pairs with three rows of pairs facing the blackboard. 

After a week or two, we were graded into three singing streams. One by one, we hustled to the front of the class and sang solo without music. Mr Hake then assigned us to singing groups "A" to "C". I made it into group "D"... to the raucous cheers of the rest of the class. It was my first experience of public failure and it was failure that lasted a whole 12 months.! 

The "A" group sat on desks to the left. The "B" group sat on desks in the middle. The "C" group sat on desks to the right. The "D" group sat on the floor.

The "A" group sang  "harmony". The "B" group sang "ordinary". The "C" group sang "some ordinary". The "D" group sat on the floor. 

The "A" group were exalted. The "B" group were praised. The "C" group were acknowledged. The "D" group sat on the floor.

Then, one day, Mr Hake wanted to sing "Charlie is My Darling".  I really don't know why.... but he did.... so, we had to. Suddenly, there was a desperate demand for bagpipes..... and that was the moment that group "D" swung into action after months of inactivity.

It was a tricky business..... mouthing "Brummm, Brummm" at exactly the right moment.... and in tune. And, of course, it was even trickier sitting on the floor.  

Times were hard in those days. Come to think of it... so was the floor.

Dave Taylor
Whitstable

 

If you can come up with more musical stories of the past, please let us know!

 


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