In 2011 I was employed by a trio of primary schools in Northumberland to create a song with local flavour with the Year 3 and 4 classes to be performed at a mini music festival in Alnwick Playhouse.
I approached the task by discussing subjects and sounds with the children in these classes – we plumped for something centred around the River Coquet as all three schools were close to this river in Broomhill, Warkworth and Amble. I came up with a chorus which we all tackled together. The verses were composed, one for each school and the children in the schools came up with many of the ideas for the lyrics themselves, including most of the rhymes. Broomhill considered the river and farmland, Warkworth the history and castle, Amble the sea and fishing.
The first time I met these classes I was one of three specialists invited to work with them and we all met up in one place for a day of creativity and learning. The other two experts were a traditional Northumbrian piper and folk singer, and also an expert on the local Northumberland tartan. When I went back to each school to help them with the song, they wanted to include some of the new vocabulary they had found out from these other two specialists, so you’ll find scutulata (checked fabric – as in the local tartan), tackity boots (hob-nailed boots as worn by the shepherds with their tartan), folding (a circular stone enclosure for sheep to shelter in harsh weather) and tommynoddy (the Northumberland dialect for a puffin)
Here are our lyrics:
Stop! Touch the history on the breeze, See the sturdy castles. Listen to the tales This sandstone can tell. Cool, burling streams, bubbling up through the hills, Meander through the dales towards the sea. Trundling waves brush the golden sand dunes. Stop! Stay awhile in our home Northumberland. River Coquet sparkling in the wind, Reflecting golden sun. Heron stands, watching, waiting. Trout is speared. Heron soars away. Freezing snow on round gigantic hills. Sheep snooze in frosty foldings. Water crashing on strong, stone bridges. Brown river, meander to the sea. Ghosts drift through secret places, Down winding steps, murky, creepy dungeons. Winds swirl through walls and arches. Medieval moats, ancient and old. Knights guarding northern walls, Battling, charging, jousting until death. Coloured flags brush the foggy skies. Sandstone Warkworth Castle lies. We love the salty ocean, With slimy seaweed floatin’. Waves crashing on the sandy shore. The sea has a massive roar. Catch a coble to Coquet Island, See hungry seabirds diving, Swimming, splashing, swooping for our tea, Tommynoddies belly flop in the sea. (alternative chorus) Stop! Touch the music on the breeze, See the scutulata, Listen to the tales This tartan can tell. Wild skirling pipes, spinning down through the hills, Weaving through the dales towards the sea. Chequered plaid warm the tackity shepherds. Stop! Stay awhile in our home Northumberland.