SHE raised one hand skywards, while using the other to conduct with ever more languid movements.

“Rallentando,” said Bridie Jackson, rolling her ‘R’s dramatically, to the group of eight-year-olds in front of her. “That’s what I say when I want people to slow down.

“Now, I need two conductors to help me, because I’m going to play guitar and won’t be able to conduct.

“Who hasn’t done it before?”

The next three minutes, in the lower school on Haltwhistle Community Campus, could only make you smile – the sight of two girls conducting to entirely different beats, while the choir sang on regardless.

It will equally warm the cockles of your heart if you go along to the concert they are preparing for on the evening of Thursday, April 6.

Held in aid of the local Chin Up charity that provides support for terminally ill children and their families, it will take place in the school hall.

And you know what, the sweet melodies of the three songs the Year 4s have written with Bridie will sound all the sweeter, because they have been wrapped up in so much fun!

The products of a six-week song writing course, funded by Haltwhistle Town Council, the Smith Trust and the Waitrose green tokens scheme, from beginning to end, the aim has been to give youngsters the time and freedom to simply enjoy music.

‘Hey there, you’re a real cool cat/You’ve got a bit of this and got a bit of that/so come on down and feel the beat/people with blond hair get on your feet’, sings Bridie, as she swings into the warm-up.

By the time the blondies have bounced in and out of the circle and then those with dark hair have jumped in, everyone’s singing.

Year 4 teacher Jill Thompson said: “When the children come back after their session each week, they are full of what they’ve done.

“They tell me how they came up with their ideas and the discussions they’ve had and the places in Haltwhistle they have put into the songs.

“They are really quite passionate when they come back and they want to share it.”

The original aim was to write one ‘Song for Haltwhistle’, but it has all gone so swimmingly well that there are now three.

A Song About Home is first off the blocks in rehearsals this week. “Let’s just check everybody’s comfortable with the tune,” said Bridie. “I’ll sing a line and then you all sing it back to me.”

The Year 4s dive straight in, ‘Home is the place I’d rather be/With the Tyne nearby and the trees swaying free’.

Yep, they’ve got it, but just a bit of tweaking. “And when I’m far away, I’ll wish I was back one day”, sings Bridie.

“Practise that. Do you hear how ‘da-ay’ is spread across two notes?”

Right, she’d like nice, loud voices each time that refrain, the chorus, comes around.

They don’t need to be asked twice and duly deliver it with gusto.

Oliver Pearson and Rosie Howell, to name but two, have been bowled over by the project.

“At home I don’t get time, with doing all the busy jobs and playing football, to write and so I never thought I’d be able to write a song,” said Oliver.

“I think this showed the creative side of the group. It’s not just that we had to learn a song, but we had to make the song before we could learn it. It feels good that it’s new and hasn’t been written or sung by anybody else.

“I never knew writing songs could be such fun!”

Oliver and Rosie lobbed their favourite places of play into the mix when it came to capturing the essence of Haltwhistle – the playground on Comb Hill, for Rosie, and “the AstroTurf”, the all-weather pitch, for Oliver.

Rosie also thought outside the box. “I have written songs before,” she said.

“I just write about things that pop into my head and brainstorm from there to come up with tunes.

“I can remember when we were writing different things (for this project), lots of people were thinking about ice-creams, but I looked at the books around me and saw a book about space, so I suggested that.”

The pupils will share the concert platform on April 6 with the local Hadrian Singers, a choir that grew out of a singing walk organised by the Haltwhistle Walking Festival brigade six years ago.

The walk was, and the choir is, led by freelance musician, composer and teacher Bridie Jackson.

Five of the choir members have been coming into school to help the pupils formulate their ideas. One of them, Janet Lord, herself a retired teacher and former musical director, said the project was reaping rewards for all concerned.

“It’s been lovely working with the children, listening to them and helping them write their ideas down,” she said.

“As for me, I’ve been away in Spain for nine years and this was a way back in, a way of being part of the community here again.”

Janet has just hit the nail on the head, as far as Bridie’s concerned.

The latter said: “This project grew out of the desire for the choir to have more links with the local community and members felt it would be really nice if the younger generation got to experience a little bit of what they did each week at their own rehearsals.

“I hope there will be more projects like this, but next time round I’d like to involve more people and more children – it would be nice if it was a whole-school experience.”

The 40 or so members of Hadrian Singers rehearse in Haltwhistle’s Holy Cross Church each Thursday evening, between 7.15pm and 9pm. There are no auditions and all are welcome.

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