May Day! On land – though could be near the sea if you are Padstow way!

Hello! So having had a break from blogging and sharing of ideas, I decided that it is time to share again! My current sessions are based on the theme of May Day and I and sharing them with groups of adults with learning disabilities.

I have devised three session plans but each with the possibility of being repeated and extended upon. Thanks goes out as always to the people who probably have as much to do with these ideas and plans as I! So firstly to my colleague Emmie Ward – together we led joint sessions with a May Day theme around this time last year. Since then I have had ‘Unite and unite, let us all unite!’ on my mind! Emmie needs to get her own blog up and going 🙂
Also credit to the English Folk Dance and Song Society – who have a fantastic online resource bank. (I really must add some more links to this website).  For now just type in EFDSS Resource Bank and you’ll find a plethora of resources including info on May Day. I used that as my main source of research in terms of the the things that take place on May day.

I found some rhymes in a lovely and very small old book that I have from my family and I have made up simple tunes to them. The Padstow May Song and Hal An Tow (A Helston song!) are both great and very catchy and with interactive possibilities. I couldn’t really find a version to listen to of the Mayers Song, (despite googling to the best of my not always the best googler ability.) However, I like it as a rhyme too – as I first found it.

Looking at my plan below I can already see the elements that I have not actually carried out yet. Either because I decided to simply and repeat or to adapt to the different people in the group. I hope it is of some interest/help to you. I am still finding my way in the sessions I lead, especially when newer groups, however, this theme does make me happy 🙂

Plan and ideas below:


May Day

Week 1

The night before at home prep/cosy

Week 2

May Morning dew/celestial

Week 3

May Day Parade, Jovial/humour

Hello Song Good Morning, Missus and Master (smell garland) Good Morning, Missus and Master

(smell garland)

Good Morning, Missus and Master

(smell garland)

Poem/Rhyme The Mayer’s Song The Cuckoo May Gosling Fool
Soundscape Evening sounds (Fire crackling, owl hoot, Bonfire Candle to smell) Morning Sounds (chimes and morning dew to feel) Celebrations Sounds/ (Bells, clapping sticks/Money to hold)
Story Element 1


Gathering foliage & our fav things (like Milk Maids) to decorate houses/hoop/horse (Horse sounds/ snapping jaw) Crowning of the May Queen and King (crown, flower head dress) decorate with ribbons Waking up Jack O Green (green covered ball?)and joking (laughing ball/sound effects/kazoo)
Story Element 2 (Dance/tunes) play tunes on whistle and from itunes Horse dance


(Winster Gallop/Bear Dance/Three Around/Derby Kelly)

Maypole dance


(The Keel Row/ Planxty Irwin/ Seven Stars/ Si Bheag Si Mhor

Morris Dance


(Banbury Bill/Country Gardens/Brighton Camp)

Story Element 3

(May Game)

Horse Race

(Counting/Giddy Up)


(circle shape)

Cheese rolling (smelly camembert box)
Songs 1 (Main /recurring) Padstow May Song

Hal an Tow

Padstow May

Hal an Tow

Padstow May Song

Hal an Tow

Songs 2 (nursery rhyme) Horsey Horsey

Lavenders Blue

Dusty Bluebells

Sing a rainbow

This Old Man

Down By the Bay

Songs 3 (contemporary/


Here Comes the Sun/Keep on Running I’m A Believer/I saw her standing there/Doo wah diddy Old Joe Clark?
Close The Mayer’s Song – Final Verse The Mayer’s Song – Final Verse The Mayer’s Song – Final Verse


Extra songs/activities:

The Trees Grew All Around/We are Beating the Bounds

I can see clearly

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World

Singing in the Rain/Raindrops keep falling on my head


Story/script ideas


Use a tone chime or similar – this time I used a triangle to set the tone/scene

Explain that the next few sessions are going to be on the theme of May Day and the May Day celebrations that have taken place since a long time ago!


Session 1


-Sing the hello song – allowing people to smell the scent of real blossom/flowers

-Say that it is the evening/morning and House name is getting ready for May Day.

-Say the individual names of people there who are getting ready.

-Introduce the soundscape and any related items.

-Then for session 1 for example, say persons name is collecting flowers/leaves for the May garland. Then go through everyone individually with different items to addand build hoop with them. Say that house name is trying to make the best garland in the whole of town name. (In an excited way!)

-Also prepare the horse with e.g. wooden clapping mouth and decorate with bells


Rhymes and Songs


A May Day Rhyme

{C} Good morning, Missus and Master,

I wish (up) you a happy {G} day;

{C} Please to smell my garland,

Be {G} cause it’s the {F} first of {C} May.


The Mayer’s Song

We’ve been a rambling all this night,

And sometime of this day;

And now returning back again,

We bring a branch of May.


The Mayer’s Song (Final Verse)

The moon shines bright, the stars give a light

A little before it is day,

So God bless you all, both great and small,

And send you a joyful May


The Cuckoo

The cuckoo’s a bonny bird, he whistles as he flies

He brings us good tidings, he tells us no lies;

He drinks the cold water to make his voice clear,

And when he sings cuckoo the summer is near;

Sings cuckoo in April, cuckoo in May;

Cuckoo in June, and then flies away.


May Gosling and ‘May Goslings past and gone. You’re the fool for making me one’!


L’Arche Music Session: Autumn and Back through time to work songs past

Attention grabbing things…

My broad theme for my current term of sessions is Autumn and work songs. We have already had a few sessions and I thought it might be nice to blog a bit about what L’Arche is, how I got to the theme and what I have been up to so far.

L’Arche London is a charity based in West Norwood, South East London. I have worked for L’Arche in various ways and for various lengths of time since first leaving University many years back! I first went as a summer assistant and never seem to have really left. The charity supports adults with learning disabilities to live alone, in flats and in larger houses.

The community also runs day services, which currently centre around a garden project and a craft project. L’Arche originates from France and started in London in 1977. The community was set up to give people with learning disabilities their own home and sense of community. Previously people with learning disabilities were living in impersonal and often unpleasant institutions. The history of the day provision is also fascinating as the founders realised that people with learning disabilities wanted (and many still do) to do real work, have a job and earn money. The history of the day provision and community could be a whole heritage project and is something that I’d like to consider while some early members of the community can still share their stories.

I didn’t intend to write such a long introduction, however, L’Arche’s past helped me decide on the theme. Work is at the heart of many songs old and new. I love folk songs and folk work songs are a plenty 🙂 I thought it would be nice to explore some early songs about rural life as a starting point.

The early September sessions began with an Autumn theme and we have gradually moved into the rural and work theme. The sessions begin with an attention grabber and at the moment always include a soundscape, turn taking activity of some kind, voice warm up, songs and percussion instruments.

Autumn Theme

I will share a couple of examples of activities that have taken place in the sessions. The first attention grabber activity was shaking leaves in a large plastic box. I took the box around shaking it and offering others to shake it if they wanted. I did this before singing the welcome song. I didn’t say anything at first and just walked past each group member shaking the leaves as a way of beginning the session. When creating the autumn soundscape we also experimented with comparing the sound of a smaller sized box to shake the leaves, shuffling the leaves in a different way and with hitting the bottom of the box to mimic walking in rhythm. We hit sticks together (twigs and  clapping sticks), snapped twigs, turned rainmakers, waved big leaves and shook sycamore seed bundles. We took time to listen to each of the sounds independently before adding them and experimented with loud and quiet/fast and slow and stopped suddenly to pause and listen to the introduction of a new sound. As well as the above sounds, one of these sounds was the dropping of an acorn or two to the floor, with pauses in-between. I built up different Autumn soundscapes over a couple of weeks. There are also quite a few sounds you can find online and of course can record your own if you want to add some real life sounds.

We then developed the theme by singing a song written by Emmie Ward called ‘We’re All Walking Along… (through the woods)’, which I have used before in our Crystal Palace Park/London Wildlife Trust project. Even though there were up to 12 people with learning disabilities in the session, we took the time to sing it for everyone, while people had the opportunity in pairs to walk around the centre piece. At the end of singing a verse for someone, that person was given an acorn and could drop it into the large plastic box, which made up the centre piece. At the end I and then anyone else who wanted to – shook the box to a rhythm and heard the sound of all the acorns together.

Work Theme

I feel I have written way too much already! However, to give you a little taster of the work song sessions…. I continued the Autumn theme into the work theme. The attention grabber for the next session became the sound of pasta shaken in a box to recreate the sound of a train. This was an idea I learned from Coralie Oddy. Again you can experiment with the fast and slow/loud and quiet. The soundscape changed from travelling through the woods to taking a train and walking to work soundscape. As well as some of the Autumn sounds we also had some street sounds of bike bells and cars. Setting a regular rhythm was key here – and leaving space for others to take over and add to the rhythm. In the song part of the session we sung ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’ and concentrated on singing just part of it and everyone having a turn on the uke (instead of the banjo!) if they wanted.

The travelling back in time idea has become part of the current soundscape and you can use a tone chime of any kind to signal the going back in time. It was nice to intersperse the chime sound with the sound of the train and working on railroad. The turn taking activities (whilst singing ‘We’re all walking)  have since included dropping conkers into a bowl of water, ladling water and this week pouring corn with a measuring jug. I thought these all in some way represent time passing and link in with the autumn/rural theme. Today, I cornily said that pouring corn could be symbolic of the the grains from farming and also the grains of time!

More to follow on the work theme and in particular the knitting/weaving theme that is also part of the L’Arche history and rural history. I hope the blog entry has been of some interest and I have not pointed out the obvious.

As with all the work I am up to at the moment. I owe much of what I practice to inspiration from many people. Today’s thanks are to Emmie Ward and Coralie Oddy. Emmie is a fantastic music teacher, with many years experience of teaching people with learning disabilities. I have learned so much from observing her music sessions and working with her on the Sound Tracks and Crystal Palace Projects. Coralie Oddy, I met through attending a Jo Grace Sensory Stories workshop and we started storytelling together for the Crystal Palace Project as well as Sound Tracks.