The first leaves are falling, selection boxes are on the supermarket shelves and every music specialist must face the thought of that end of term performance. Getting it right is crucial as it’s the first big performance of the year, young singers need a goal and in that busy Autumn term you need a high impact, low-hassle option.
Consider the mini-musical.
As a music teacher, I inherited a neglected pile of ‘Swinging Samson’, ‘Hip-Hip Horatio’ and ‘Captain Noah and his floating Zoo’ and left it ages before trying them out with the Year 7s, assuming they were not quite cutting edge enough. In fact they worked brilliantly, not least as great transition performance material in that first term of secondary, and you can easily get a show to performance standard in a matter of weeks.
Let’s face it –the mini musical is a winner. Essentially a primary and junior concert staple with 20 minutes or so of usually 8-10 accessible numbers, often in unison with optional harmonies, in a variety of styles, (Hoorah for the obligatory reggae number!) opportunities for showcasing budding divas in manageable solo parts and spoken lines for narrators. Pre-recorded accompaniments are usually now available, as well as expandable parts for a higher-production band feel. Mini-musicals work in concert performance or semi-staged, with small choirs and class groups or indeed whole year or massed vocal ensembles from reception upwards. If your school lacks a music specialist, many publications now include tracks which will guide you through to a successful performance.
So end any stress you feel about that end of term choral extravaganza with a mere mouse-click on the music-room order form. There’s a wealth of nativity-themed shows but so much more. You can see how Pixar films have raised the game in irony and jokes in KS2 material. Take Manger Tom or The Final Straw by Richard and Thomas Allain: The musical styles are diverse and vocal lines eminently singeable, and there is a lot of energy and sophistication in the humour. The Messrs Allain (surely KS2’s answer to the Gershwins?) also produced the very successful Jake and the Right Genie, the theme of which (Children’s Rights) makes it invaluable for cross-curricular collaborations and citizenship awareness.
There are shows to suit any occasion and curricular need:
Christmas themed (Gold, Frankincense and Mirth) or Sheikh Rattle and Roll, secular festive (A Victorian Christmas party) historical (Pepys Show) scientific (H20) even violence prevention! (The Lemonade Kid).
It’s a tried and tested format which of course produced Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, in its first incarnation as a 15 minute prep school show. Mighty oaks from little acorns…
By Helen Tierney