And it all went splendidly! It felt like a proper, informal, on-the-edge of chaos performance, and all the more enchanting for that. It had its “moments”, but whispered instructions from strategically placed staff at crucial moments prevented any major crises.
I was very pleased with my percussion band. We had had very few rehearsals as just the band. I had tried out a few ideas in the previous fortnight, but mainly relied on certain key children knowing what to do and the younger ones catching on fast.
In the end, I prepared eighteen cloth bags (I had no idea that I had accumulated so many over the years), each labelled with the child’s name. Inside, there was an order of service, with the parts for the songs or carols they were playing in clearly marked, and the instruments required. On the back of the label I listed the instruments that should be inside.
Each band member was responsible for collecting their bag before we walked up to the church, and making sure all the instruments were replaced and the bag put back afterwards. The children had to be fully independent, as I couldn’t see them and I was fully occupied watching the script and playing the songs at the right time on a keyboard balanced across the corner of a pew.
So, for example, in “We Three Kings”, I labelled each verse with the instrument that was accompanying it, and put a ring round the words in the chorus where the cymbal was to play. If someone was playing a woodblock in “Little Donkey”, the words “Wood block – rhythm – little donkey” was written against the song in their order or service. Likewise, the chimes had “8 8 8 7 6 5, 6765, 6765” written against the chorus in their copies.
This worked for “Calypso carol too, which we only had one rehearsal for; each child had two identical boomwhackers, and I ringed the words of the chorus for their letter. So GG would play for G chords, C chords and Eminor chords.
One of the reasons it worked so well is that we have done so much rhythm work over the past two terms, accompanying songs and creating different ostinato patterns. This means that the children are able to grasp and hold onto quite complex rhythms, and maintain a steady pulse.
I like to focus on rhythm and pulse in the first term of the year anyway, as it is such an important foundation for group music-making. It certainly made putting the band together much easier than it might have been.