Review: Summer Assembly Songs9:00, 23rd April 2019
Summer Assembly Songs
by Mark and Helen Johnson
Out of the Ark Music
£24.95 (Standard pack); £42.95 (Premium Pack)
An incredible resource for any school
If you read the March issue of Music Teacher then you may have seen my glowing review of Out of the Ark’s wonderful Spring Assembly Songs, an evergreen resource for any teacher looking to brighten up their assemblies. Well, I’m pleased to report that Out of the Ark are back again with an exciting follow up in the form of Summer Assembly Songs – obviously named but it lets you know exactly what to expect.
As I write this review, it’s currently pouring with rain, the skies are grey and my train was cancelled this morning due to ice on the third rail (and it’s supposed to be April!) so summer currently seems a very long way away. However, I’m assured that it will be arriving soon – unlike my train. What better way to welcome it than a lovely assembly?
For full disclosure, I’m reviewing digital versions of both the book and the music so while I can’t pass comment on the physical media, I have every confidence that they will be as brilliant as the Spring Assembly Songs ones.
‘All of the songs have a great sound’
Listening to these songs is the perfect way to get you in the mood for summer. From the very first song in the book ‘Start the Celebrations’ it is clear that you’re in for a treat thanks to its upbeat calypso sway and perfect seasonal lyrics. The rest of the music continues in the same vein, immediately catchy and eminently singable. While all of the songs have a great sound and are very life-affirming, many of them also have specific messages, such as the ecology-focussed ‘Walking to School Week’ and ‘Please Don’t Squish Me!’, the Father’s Day celebration ‘Tell Your Dad He’s Great!’, as well as the charming ‘Don’t Forget Your Suncream’ whose message a lot of adults could do with internalising!
If you’re planning your leavers’ assembly then ‘Change and Grow’ is pretty much guaranteed to reduce the parents to sobbing wrecks, which is the perfect tone as far as I’m concerned! Overall, I’d say that my favourite song is ‘The First Days of Summer’, which has an amazing jazz funk feel to it – a proper bop.
The Johnson’s are very skilled musicians and they work so well together. If you’ve ever done one of the official Red Nose Day songs at your schools then you already know their work as they’ve been in partnership with Comic Relief since 2007.
They’re also joined on this release by their daughter Naomi, who is named as the collaborative writer for the song ‘Start The Day With Exercise’ – this is a fun calypso-style song that features an interesting round that is sure to be a fun challenge for a class. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, then it even comes with a dance video for you to groove along to – Out of the Ark really have gone above and beyond.
I’m reviewing the version of the music that comes with vocals but it is worth mentioning that the purchased version also comes with backing tracks, should you not have someone at your school who can make use of the sheet music. It’s well worth listening to the vocal version though, as not only are they sung very well but they will also give you a good idea as to how the songs should sound.
‘Once again, Out of the Ark has delivered a wonderfully joyous experience’
The amount of passion and effort that goes into Out of the Ark’s output is clearly evidenced in its songbooks. Design-wise, it’s gorgeous to look at. Everything from the cover to the sheet music is well laid out and the information is presented cleanly and clearly. Each song has its own double page, with the lyrics on the left-hand side and a comprehensive worksheet on the opposite side which provides teaching tips, suggested activities, ideas to make it more challenging and much more. I reckon that if you went through and did everything here, you’d have music lessons sorted for a whole term at least!
As the name of the book suggests, this is designed for assemblies and the book is incredibly useful when it comes to helping you plan yours out. There are 15 assembly plans included, each replete with song suggestions, necessary resources, and ideas for discussion. Each assembly comes with a theme such as ‘Sporty Days’ and ‘Fresh Clean Air’ so there is sure to be something in here that captures your imagination.
You may have already worked it out from the name but Out of the Ark has a Christian ethos and this does show up in its work. I’m not religious myself and I’ve never found this aspect of the company’s output to be particularly intrusive. It’s all clearly identified in the song information listings and in sections of the assembly plans and as such, can easily be taken out if it’s not suitable for your school. It’s a nice added bonus for schools that will use it but you’re not missing out if you can’t given the huge amount of content that the book already has in it. Frankly, it’s a great product for any school.
So, once again, Out of the Ark has delivered a wonderfully joyous experience with Summer Assembly Songs. I can’t recommend it enough and I can only hope that there are more seasonal songs coming!