Tag Archives: Singing Ringing Tree

Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Ben McCabe

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Ben McCabe, recalls his experience…

Looking Back

I have, of course, moved on or at least over to, various other projects now whilst the Songs from Singing Ringing Tree quickly becomes a fuzzy but friendly memory.

We’ve just had an evaluation meeting at Mid Pennine Arts which included viewing videos we’d made and thinking about ways forward. It seemed pretty obvious to build on what we’ve done – playing, chatting, composing, exploring with children, staff and parents in nurseries in Burnley and Brierfield.

I’ve had a mixture of feeling confident and like the right person in the right place, and then feeling like a fraud with nothing to offer. Often within a space of a few minutes.

Now we’ve finished, my main sensation is that the project was a bit too long for me to maintain focus and energy, and to stick to what I felt the brief was – improving life chances for nursery children through developing speech and language skills and confidence through music making, all through the method of being inspired by a visit to a work of public art and then responding to that.

It was great to get comfy in each setting and to get to know the children and staff so well and we certainly were able to pursue some pleasingly playful and creative avenues of song writing, storytelling, performing and arranging. Becoming part of the rhythm of the week meant that some of the specialness and engagement from all directions wore off – although not in one to one interactions. I feel I should have more willingly to let go of referring back to visits to Halo or Singing Ringing Tree and just made new music every week – following our noses. Gladly there were many occasions when a group or a particular person steered sessions out of my control and into more interesting in-the-moment play.

Going on a Trip

My first outing with Stoneyholme Nursery was wisely delayed for quite a while as the children had only recently arrived at nursery and were still finding their feet. The staff felt that they wouldn’t be able to offer much of a response to a visit to Halo if they were too stressed out dealing with getting through the day.

So we waited a while and I therefore adjusted things a little. Looking at pictures of where were going to go and trying to work out what on earth it could be.

Loads of ideas sprung up and we were always drawing pictures in our discussions and then turning them into songs. Sometimes songs would emerge in the moment with tunes supplied in response to the question “can anyone sing how this one goes”. Sometimes we couldn’t get the thing moving so with smoke and mirrors we’d move on and I might write a little music myself to match our words in the staff room just before lunch. I think this mixture of shared compositions, and stuff I know I can make work, is fine. Working quickly seems important. Keeping going back to the beginning works well too – feels like a game.

We prepared messages – actually pictures – to tie to the legs of the Halo which we decided was a spaceship and then we’d send them off into space when we eventually got there.

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fullsizerenderWe also prepared a disco tune – I can’t remember why but we certainly danced in the breeze once we made it to Halo.

The journey is just as important as arriving for many of us.  It’s nice to get excited about things we know about. So we wrote songs about getting the bus, going on a trip, playing I-Spy on the way there

As we’d learnt on the Wonderful Things in Song project, that this team had delivered previously, it was valuable to have reminders up around the nursery for children and staff to refer back to in groups or during a more open session. We developed this a little more at Stoneyholme, recording songs as a group as well as versions which I recorded in the staff room. These were available for children to play back in nursery as well as becoming backing tracks in our sessions as well as being the soundtrack for our coach journey to Halo.

 Fliers and Weepers

The groups were a nice size 5 – 8 children with a staff member and me as well as one to one sessions with me plonked in a bit of the nursery as the children went about their day.

Each day I seemed to challenge myself to try and get the balance right on allowing children to lead us through a session but still cover enough music making that would seem meaningful to the staff that were with me. Hoping that they’d see the value in what we were doing as well as any leaps, bounds and increments that individual children might be making.

It was lots of fun to be guided by particular children who were having fun with taking the lead – sometimes completely dominating a session, sometimes talking themselves stuck, sometimes getting carried away and getting a little too cheeky for the group to be able to continue down that road.

And I always feel a really strong urge to make things FAIR for everyone. I suspect this isn’t that fair of me and probably coming from my own experiences at school?  So I’d invite someone who’d not had a turn or not given us a lyric yet to have turn. Sometimes this was too much to have asked and there’d be tears or just frozen silence but often we’d get a quiet word, picture or a tap on a drum. Tiny moments of progression that could open the door for a lot more interaction and involvement as the weeks went by that build on the resulting trust formed.

Ben McCabe

You can read more about the project and view the documentary film on our website.

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Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Zoe Greenhalgh

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Zoe Greenhalgh, recalls her experience…

Relationships

For me, the joy of working on projects such as this, is the wonderful human connections with the very young that are born out of musical play and exploration, without any need for speech.  Singing is such a wonderful medium; no right or wrong, just variations which have infinite potential for development in a whole new direction.

In the settings the day comprised of working with all children in the nursery in small groups of 6-10 each supported by a member of the nursery staff which allowed the children and myself to become well acquainted and build a good relationship. It also enabled me to learn something of the children as individuals; how confident they were, their readiness to sing and make music, their ideas and interests, quirks and foibles.  In these small groups I became familiar to them and they to me, meaning that I could structure my teaching to support their individual needs whether musical or otherwise.  Progress and participation was good and much enjoyment was evident.

The Singing Tent

In one setting I came to know the children over a number of weeks working with small group and their key worker before creating and opening the “singing tent” for business. The groups were predominantly adult led so the tent was intended to redress the balance by offering the children the opportunity to initiate and lead the musical activities, for me to join in with their play.

The “singing tent” was constructed from a clotheshorse and some music printed fabric held together with clothes pegs.  This was intentionally only large enough for me and two children to occupy at any one time thus maintaining a sense of intimacy that might elicit the engagement of even the most timid of children.  Sometimes it was situated inside in the nursery, sometimes outside in the garden.  I stayed in the tent with my ukulele and the children came and joined me as and when they liked.  The ukulele turned out to be a good provocation for the children to respond to: they were attracted to the sound and wanted to play it, but were inclined to play with some delicacy, either listening intently to the sounds they produced or strum it as an accompaniment to their singing. It was often not played at all.

I had tried different instruments for variety – a small number of quality percussion instruments and chime bars – but whilst the children enjoyed exploring these, as a joint interactive activity it was not very fruitful.  Likewise, me sitting in the tent just singing with no instruments was not as attractive, possibly because the sound of a singing voice is a familiar one in the setting.

Within the intimate, private space of the tent, these children recognised me as a play partner and offered me the crown jewels – magical musical connections with voice, sound and rhythm, spontaneous original song improvisations, musical play of all shapes and sizes.  What an honour and infinite pleasure to be so accepted and trusted with their precious offerings.

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Inspiration visit to the Singing Ringing Tree

Ways of working…

During this project I have worked in a more formal, adult-led manner with small groups of children as well as in a more informal, “free flow” way. Both are valuable in their own right but I believe that the impact is greater than the sum of its parts when the two approaches are combined.  How important then that educators within the setting have the musical confidence and skill to scaffold and support children’s musical creativity and development, and that staff development is built into the project in a workable manner.

From my experience; Thoughts on project planning and delivery

All projects of this sort give a cohort of children access to musical experiences beyond those normally available in the setting; musical exposure and engagement that without the project they would not have had.  Fantastic!  What is more difficult is to build in longer term legacy for the settings in subsequent years.

I believe the most crucial and detailed part of all projects is the planning stage.  There is this great idea to run a project doing “X” which would work really well with these leaders in this location and we could build in “Y” and “Z” – wow, how exciting!  This is perhaps the easy bit.  What follows is the contacting of settings and individuals involved to gain interest in being involved which is relatively straightforward, particularly where relationships already exist.

Then comes the nitty gritty of how it will work on the ground, what it will look like in reality, firm commitment to dates, time, staff availability, trips out, available physical space, parental/photo permissions, etc. etc.  This is the really tricky bit.  It is so important that all parties “buy in” to the concept and that the finer detail is worked out collaboratively with all partners at the earliest stage of planning, especially those involved in the day to day delivery.  Settings are very busy with many demands upon their time and energies making this level of detail sometimes hard to sort out, but it is precisely this, along with the ongoing communication between the visiting music practitioner and the setting staff, that turns an ordinary project into an extraordinary one that leaves behind it something truly worth having.  This collaborative, committed relationship means that the project activity is more than just a “bolt on” extra, that it is integrated into the setting beyond the allotted project time, extending reach to more children and developing staff confidence, knowledge and skill and impacting positively on practise within the setting and the experiences of its children.

Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree from Mid Pennine Arts on Vimeo.

Dr Steph Takes on the Marathon

We are feeling very privileged at  the moment, not only is Barbara Sanders still on her way from Penzance, on foot, but one of our Trustees has also been out in all weathers, training hard for this weekend’s London Marathon.  Both are undertaking these extraordinary feats to raise funds for MPA’s 50th Anniversary.

Dr Stephanie Hawke, has been pounding the tow path of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, racking up a 100 miles of training runs.  Steph first became involved with MPA as a 16 year old on work placement.  Some years later we were very pleased to welcome her to the education team, which she went on to lead in 2011 after completing her PhD.  Although we lost her to Curious Minds a while back, Steph has stayed involved with MPA by joining the Board of Trustees.

Steph Hawke 2 - training for London Marathon April 2016

Steph says, “I started running with a fantastically supportive group organised through Burnley Leisure. My first race was the Jane Tomlinson Burnley 10k.  I got the bug and within 12 months I’d joined Clayton Le Moors Harriers, run six half marathons and had my sights on the big one. I was delighted to win a place for the Virgin London Marathon 2016 and started training in January running through ice, hail, lightning, wind, rain and sun. As the mileage increased the Leeds Liverpool Canal provided the perfect track, and apart from being hissed at by surprisingly threatening geese, I have successfully pounded more than 100 miles of training. There’s a physical price to pay for that kind of endurance and I’ve had painful massage and acupuncture not to mention experimenting with ice baths and agonising foam rollers!

I’m raising money for Mid Pennine Arts to establish an award for young artists. The organisation has brought vibrancy, colour and texture to Pennine Lancashire for 50 years, often with little recognition – who doesn’t love the Singing Ringing Tree? MPA make me proud to live in Burnley and I want to inspire the next generation of artists to work in our quietly fabulous historic and rural environment. “

Steph has contributed so much to MPA over the years and we are delighted to benefit from her efforts once again.   We know how hard she’s been training for this and appreciate it enormously; we hope that people will help her reach her target of £800.

Contributions to Steph’s fundraising can be made via Just Giving.

Steph Hawke - training for London Marathon April 2016

Singing Ringing Tree Videos On YouTube

There are lots of videos on YouTube created by people who visited the Singing Ringing Tree, we thought we’d share some of them with you.  If you would like to suggest any videos for this list please email: marketing@midpenninearts.org.uk with a link.

Singing Ringing Tree (c) Andy Ford

Film maker Video title
Inside a pixel Singing Ringing Tree Burnley – (Panopticons) – Time lapse video
RailMon The Singing, Ringing Tree
Jonathan brind Singing Ringing Tree
TheHiddender Singing Ringing Tree, Lancashire, England [Hiddener 不是熱點遊]
Jazeuk1 Singing Ringing Tree burnley Lancashire
Welcome The Singing Ringing Tree
Tony Tickle Singing Ringing Tree Panopticon
ToMYDSGN’s channel Поющее дерево от Tonkin Liu
Huckleberry Films The Singing Ringing Tree
Countryside Walking The Singing Ringing Tree – Panopticon Burnley

 

A Song for Singing Ringing Tree

The East Lancashire Clarion Choir climbed up to Crown Point one weekend to sing under the Singing Ringing Tree.  This song, written by choir member Henry Peacock  records their adventure.  Thank you to Henry and the Choir for sharing it with us.  It’s meant to be sung like a sea shanty…

Singing Ringing Tree (c) Andy Ford

The Singing Ringing Tree

Mortals in a pilgrim band

Underneath the singing ringing tree

Climbing to the Promised Land

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Hear the tunes the breezes bring

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Hear the songs the angels sing

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

 Singing tree! Oh ringing tree!

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Look back to the town below

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Leave behind your earthly woe

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

 Weekday work lies far away

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

See the hares run and deer play

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Singing tree! Oh ringing tree!

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

 Now the air is growing clear

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Every step brings heaven near

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

This is where free souls belong

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Join the angels in their song

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

Singing tree! Oh ringing tree!

Underneath the Singing Ringing Tree

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Burnley at the Heart of Europe

It may not be very fashionable to be a ‘good European’ at the moment but Burnley is certainly playing its part in Europe.

The Council of Europe, a body of 47 nation states (not to be confused with the European Union), has awarded Burnley ‘le Diplôme européen’. The award has been made for its work in improving relationships between the people of Burnley and other European countries, in particular the people of its twin town, Vitry-sur-Seine, close to Paris. Indeed it was the only town in the UK to receive the award. Only 12 were offered to towns from 47 countries across Europe.

It was great too, to see that a part of the application was arts based, and related to Mid Pennine Arts!   It was possible to go back and highlight Nick Hunt’s well received presentation on the Singing Ringing Tree and the Panopticons to a huge cross-section of arts organisations from across Europe, South America and the United States at the opening of a new gallery for contemporary art from the whole of France, the Mac Val, in the Val de Marne department of northern France.

Included too was the award from the European Greenways Association (EGA) in Nancy, northern France, received at the award ceremony by Helen Yates. If you remember, the award was for MPA’s work supporting the transformation of a disused railway line into a greenway for local people in Padiham: walkers and cyclists. Mercedes Munoz, Director of EGA said: “…by removing barriers to everyday walking and cycling, greenways bring communities closer together.”

Mention was made of a visit by arts workers in Spain to Burnley’s Youth Theatre. The visit, organised by Arts Council England, offered presentations (from Nick for MPA and from Curious Minds) on Burnley’s commitment to public art, arts in the community and arts education in schools.

Of course the bid covered the work of Burnley’s Twinning Association: organising ramblers visits to and from France, 20 weeks of French lessons for its members, and welcoming 31 guests from Vitry into the homes of local people in April this year.

The Council too, has also contributed in hosting study visits over the last five years from groups of social workers, voluntary associations and students from Germany, France, and Norway. At the same time officers from the Council have actively participated in conferences and award ceremonies in Berlin, Slovenia, Gerona, Bilbao and Vilnius in Lithuania..

…and there is a huge amount going on in our schools!

Well; the European Diploma was collected on behalf of Burnley Council at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg by an honorary MPA staff member… David Smith!

Burnley (Lancashire) - Axel E. FISCHER Germany, Jean-Claude Frécon,  President of the Congress of the Council of Europe Burnley (Lancashire) - Axel E. FISCHER, Allemagne, Jean-Claude Frécon,  Président du Congrès du Conseil de l’Europe

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt reflects on a five-year milestone for the Singing Ringing Tree…

Don’t time fly!  I hadn’t realised quite how swiftly, until the Christmas card from the Chief Exec of Burnley Council brought it to mind.

The official municipal card was exploiting a suitably seasonal photo of the Tree in its Siberian winter setting, with a pile of presents sketched in around the base.  This playful bit of graffiti might have been tailor-made to offend the impeccably minimalist design sensibilities of its creators, the inspired architect duo Tonkin Liu, but at MPA we are still inclined to be delighted whenever a Panopticon gets a bit of extra exposure.

Reflecting fondly on how often that happens with this particular, much-loved landmark, I suddenly realised that the fifth birthday of the Singing Ringing Tree had slipped past in December without us noticing.  Damn!  We should have been celebrating…

The Singing Ringing Tree was the third of the Panopticons series to be commissioned and built, in a very productive partnership with Burnley Borough Council.  It was unveiled in December 2006, with two coachloads of special guests ferried up to the site and bent nearly double to keep their feet in the face of the howling gales.  Back in the car park at Crown Point, the big executive coaches were rocking side to side as if about to capsize.  But this delicate little landmark survived its crazy launch day, and has not looked back since.

You can catch the wind-buffeted flavour of that day, and the story of the construction of the Tree as a ‘giant Meccano set’ , in Roger Appleton’s film of the project:

http://vimeo.com/13093620

The Panopticons project  was intended to encourage folk to use the landscape on their doorsteps, to discover spectacular new views of Pennine Lancashire, and to explore further the rugged splendours of our area.  More than this, it was designed to create positive images to project out into the wider world, and transform perceptions about our locale.

The Singing Ringing Tree has delivered on all of this, with knobs on.  Burnley Council and people promoting Pennine Lancashire both make fulsome use of this very photogenic icon in all their promotional stuff.  http://www.regeneratepl.co.uk/pennine-lancashire-location/about-the-region/.  Images of the Tree have whizzed around the world.  Millions of YouTube users have viewed viral videos of the Tree and its song.

And this momentum is not slowing down.  In 2011 we’ve had features of the Panopticons on two network TV shows – a lovely feature on Flog It! and another on Country Tracks.  The Tree has featured in audio and image in the Berlin fashion mag Sleek and its covermount CD.  And the new edition of our local OS map – guess what it has on the cover!

This is the gift that keeps on giving.  And what a gift it was.  By happy coincidence, that launch day in December 2006 was also the 80th birthday of the Tree’s first benefactor, Sir Simon Towneley, who had identified the site, donated use of it, and worked tirelessly to help us locate the extra funds we needed.  He also recruited our second benefactor, his son Peregrine Towneley, whose immensely generous contribution made it possible for us to balance the books and to complete this dream of a project.

So happy 85th birthday Sir Simon, thanks again Peregrine, and here’s to the next half decade.

http://www.midpenninearts.org.uk/panopticons

More information for planning your visit at:

http://midpenninearts.org.uk/projects/singing-ringing-tree/