Singing Together: Archive on Four

Tx 29.11.14. 8.00-9.00pm, BBC Radio 4

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If traditional songs like ‘Donkey Riding’, ‘Bushes and Briars’ and ‘Tree in the Wood’ ring bells for you, the chances are you might have first heard and sung along to them on BBC Radio for Schools’ Singing Together broadcast for over five decades on Monday mornings at 11am.  Sprightly, rousing and, above all, jolly summed up its approach to singing.

Saturday’s Archive on Four allowed Jarvis Cocker a fascinating trawl through a history of the series prompted by a personal quest to unite his 1974 pupil’s pamhlet with broadcast recordings of the songs.  He does so thanks to a cassette tape in the back of an old school music cupboard.

‘Singing Together’ survived for so long because it was well loved by generations of children.  It fought off BBC bigwigs’ criticisms that it was insufficiently erudite and later adapted, sometimes awkwardly, to schools’ ethnic diversity and the constraints of the national curriculum.  But ultimately, ‘Singing Together’ died because its inherent simplicity was regarded as old fashioned, too straightforward for the demands of a changing world.

As Jarvis says – “Singing always helps” and at the end of the documentary, there’s a chance for you to do just that.

Singing Together on BBC iplayer
BBC Magazine feature
Lightstraw – a selection of charming covers to pupils’ pamphlets  from the 60s