Monday, 30 March 2009

Bell Trees and Magic Beans

This week I'll be spending a day with a reception class, helping them tell the story of Jack and the Beanstalk with sound effects. I have a beautifully illustrated and laquered dulcimer from St Petersburgh, pictured below, that will do nicely for the giant's harp. And the school has some drums that will be perfect for giant footsteps. There are many opportunities for sound in the tale and a good deal of magic. I thought a whole tone scale (eg C D E F# G# Bb C), or part of one, played on chime bars (one child per note) would be very magical and I may still go for that. But then I was teaching woodwind at a school this morning and saw a bell tree that hasn't moved since last September.

I've loved bell trees since I first set eyes on one. They are satisfyingly solid and well-constructed and make a fabulous sound. They look like they haven't changed since some time in the 19th century, possibly earlier. I asked to borrow the bell tree and now have it for the week. It will provide all the magic Jack's handful of beans could require.

If you have one of these, or add one to your collection, don't be tempted to undo the wing nut on the end. You'll have a devil of a job putting it back together again; there is a plastic sleeve that decouples the brass bells from the central stalk and the end is prone to flaring. My advice is to leave well alone. And Health & Safety (sorry): these are heavy. If one lands on a child's foot that child is going to know about it.

The next day I'm doing We're Going On A Lion Hunt with another reception class. Fortunately I won't need the bell tree for that. My partner is using our car and the school is far enough on a bicycle without lugging around all that brass in my rucksack.

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