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