Bouncing babies keep the beat

A HAPPY band of young – very young – music-makers have been having a good time keeping good time in recent weeks.

People who think Justin Bieber is just barely old enough to croon a tune should go along to see the wee music stars who gather together in Falkirk Old and St Modan’s Parish Church every week.

If you thought Take That were mere pups when they started, check out this fabulous five-piece – there’s ‘Jaunty’ Joy Sargent (six months old) from Redding, ‘Rocking’ Roddy Campbell (seven months), ‘Artful’ Arthur Fullerton (five months) from Falkirk, Oscar ‘Golden Boy’ Berry (eight months) from Lionthorn and ‘Cheeky’ Charlie Trimble (13 months) from Grangemouth.

These lucky babes and toddlers have been prospering under the tutelage of Judith Gray, leader of the National Youth Choir of Scotland’s Mini Music Makers (MMM) Falkirk class.

There are 20 NYCoS MMM classes currently running in Scotland – including one which started recently in Grangemouth Sports Complex.

Judith began the Falkirk class last year after attending in Linlithgow with her son Joshua. She now teaches three classes at the parish church – birth to 18 months, 18 months to three years and three to five years – one after the other, giving around 30 youngsters the benefit of her musical talents.

She said: “We only started in August, but you can already see the development in some of the babies – they’ve really come on.”

Each class kicks off, appropriately, with the ‘Hello Song’, where Judith – who has a great singing voice and plays a mean version of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ on the Old Joanna – greets each child by name as parents bounce their babies on their knees in time to the song.

“It’s about socialising too,” said Judith. “The babies are learning things like how to wait their turn. It’s instructional, musical education – just bouncing on a mother’s knee helps a baby develop rhythm.

“There’s also the friendship aspect – for the mums and the babies. The main thing is that it’s fun and an enjoyable time that gives them a chance to interact with other children.

“Some of it will be songs that mums will know already and some will be songs they can pick up very quickly. There is also a lot of what we call dynamics – the music going from quiet to loud.

“The class helps them keep a steady beat, but also shows them different speeds like fast and slow.”

Things step up a bit when the mums and children start circling the hall in time to a brisk Scottish tune.

Props play an important part in the 40-minute class, with colourful scarves adding to the fun of the peeka-boo game, a cuddly rabbit and huggable hedgehog bringing a tactile touch to the ‘Tickle Song’ and sheep, cow and horse puppets giving old favourite ‘Old McDonald’s Farm’ some visual flair.

The music suits the actions perfectly – a piece entitled ‘Aquarium’ from ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ by Camille Saint-Saens – complete with descending tinkling piano runs, accompanied the bubbles falling to earth. And, in one case, into Roddy’s mouth.

“Roddy’s been coming here since he was six weeks old and now he’s a musical genius,” laughed mum Aileen Campbell (33).

Mhairi Sargent (33) added: “We’ve been coming here for a couple of months and Joy just loves it. I don’t think she has a favourite section – she just loves it all, especially when the puppets come out.

“This is a bit more basic than other music classes – I mean that in a good way. There’s not a lot of distractions.”

By the time the final song, ‘Little Monkeys Go to Bed’ – complete with little monkey finger puppets called Fred and Lucy, rolls around and the ‘Goodbye’ song begins the babies and toddlers are tuckered out and ready for a wee power nap.

“They get really chilled out by the end,” said Judith. “It’s such a lot of fun they don’t realise how much they are learning at the same time.”

Susan Fullerton (33) said: “Arthur has been coming here since he was six weeks old and he loves being sung to. He loves the music and he loves the bubbles.”

“Oscar has been taking part in Mini Music Makers for two months,” added Megan Berry (33). “I’m a singer myself and I think this is one of the best classes for youngsters there is.”

So what are the chances of some MMM graduates going on to become members of Scotland’s youth choir?

“That would be fantastic,” said Judith. “If they want to join the NYCoS when the get older that would be terrific.”

Visit www.nycos.co.uk for more information on Mini Music Makers.