Headmaster, Strathallan School
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I often say to the school at Assembly, singing is the only thing we can all do together, regardless of ability, age or gender. Schools that sing well together are generally happy, purposeful places. I used to look out for this as an ISI Team Inspector!
This term at Strathallan, we had our second ‘Big Sing’, with everyone in the school involved. The response, described in what follows, proves my point I think and has been hugely beneficial for the community as a whole. Read for yourself…
On a rainy day in October, almost 600 pupils gathered together on the cricket lawn in Perthshire, Scotland to sing a song that would be heard 9000 miles away. Featuring pipers, drummers, a rock band and a full orchestra, the school’s rendition of ‘You’re the Voice’ by Australian singer John Farnham was never intended to go viral but it was planned to bring the people together.
The brainchild of Strathallan’s new Director of Music, Jason McAuley, the ‘Big Sing’ as it has come to be known was intended to go against the tide of the supposed ‘new normal’ brought on by pandemic restrictions.
“Music and people come alive when we are together,” said Jason.
“Music is increasingly being recognised for its beneficial effects on physical health and wellbeing. And so, after two years stuck inside, we brought the school outside last year to perform The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics. The reaction was so wonderful that we had to do it again this year and I’m so glad we did.”
“Singing has been shown to enhance mood as we connect with others together in a group and John’s song is all about that. It’s more important than ever for young people to feel they have a voice and to not sit in silence. Music has never been so important to bring people from all corners of the Earth together.”
This has been reflected in the 800+ comments and emails in response to this year’s cover.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response,” said senior student and Swim Team Captain Owen Carroll, who sung his first ever solo during the performance. “We’ve had people messaging the school from Australia, New Zealand, France, South Africa and even from hospital beds up and down the UK saying that it has brought them to tears.”
Owen added, “It’s a huge confidence booster and has made me certain that I want to sing more solos in the future. My friends are so impressed that we pulled it off. I don’t think anything else could have brought everyone together like that song.”
The song opens with snare drums from the school’s Pipe Band, followed by strings from the orchestra and then solos from Ashley Quinn, Owen Carroll and Jacy Evans, surrounded and encouraged by the chorus of 577 pupils and hundreds of staff in a large circle around the music-makers.
Jason McAuley added, “All the music played was performed by our talented young people. We wanted to feature all the activities we have going on in school, so we took cameras and mics down to the sports training sessions (swimming, rugby, netball and clay target shooting) and recorded many pupils who would not normally be involved in music making.”
“Finally, we got the whole school together for the rest of the video. It was pouring with rain that day, but the clouds cleared for 20 minutes and we got the shots we needed. It all came together in the end.”
Jacy Evans, who performed a solo in her Royal Marine cadet uniform (see here) said, “The whole school is incredibly proud of the cover. I was thrilled to hear we were performing John’s song. I love older music and to see it all come together was amazing.”
“I hope John gets to see the impact his music has on a whole new generation, there’s hundreds of us in Scotland with his music stuck in our heads and to know it’s reached Australia is awesome.”
At the time of writing, Strathallan’s whole school performance has been seen half a million times by audiences from Scotland to New South Wales and everywhere in between.
It has been featured in British and Australian media across 140 outlets and continues to get views daily as it continues to bring people together no matter their age, gender or where they are from.
As you can see the impact has been wider than expected and the boost to singing and indeed community spirit, as well as school identity, has been marked. Music, and especially singing matters. This much is clear, HMC Schools understand this, and lose sight of it at their peril. So, sing up, sing loud, sing proud! You’ll be glad you did!