A case study from Tom Daggett at St Paul's Cathedral
In April 2014, the Hackney Children’s Choir was established, drawing hundreds of children from 13 local primary schools, grounding our teaching in the English Choral Tradition. Britten’s Friday Afternoons quickly became part of our core repertoire.
When the Friday Afternoons project was launched by Snape Maltings, I was really excited by its accessibility – it is user friendly and relatable, and the children love the songs. It is just what the country needs!
Since then, St Paul’s Cathedral received a grant from Snape Maltings to lead some CPD work for primary school teachers and fellow choir leaders. Working with Cathy Lamb of Lichfield Cathedral’s Music Share, as well as the Choir Schools Association, we brought together a broad group of 60, drawn from across the country. Cathy and I taught some songs from scratch to two school choirs: St Saviour’s Poplar, and St Stephen’s Lewisham. We explained the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of our method – using Jonathan Dove’s Laura, Fire, and The Little Girl of Rain as examples.
Since this conference, I have been an ambassador for Friday Afternoons when leading workshops in schools as part of St Paul’s Cathedral’ s Music Outreach. Teachers have found the website helpful, and the children keep asking to sing the songs: even two years after I first taught them! We have now used Fire! in the Cathedral on a number of Organ Days – with hundreds of children divided into three groups under the Dome, accompanied by the Grand Organ. It has resonated very closely with the story of St Paul’s.
Being part of Friday Afternoons has meant being in a community of people moving in the same direction – it has opened up conversations with colleagues around the country about primary school singing, and has strengthened the resolve to keep flying the flag for great repertoire.
Going forward, I’d be very interested to see whether songs of a religious nature (of various different religions!) could be included. I always include staples of the English Choral Tradition in my workshops – but Friday Afternoons’ secular rep has helped to mix things up.