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’!


A couple of sensory stories

Hi there again…

Fresh from my day of music and storytelling sessions I thought I would share a couple of stories with you. My version of the Gunpowder Plot Story, which we worked on for the past couple of weeks and and The Highwayman story that I created today.

The Gunpowder Plot story I have to say thanks to the people on Joanna Grace’s Facebook page who shared their stories and ideas for Bonfire Night sensory storytelling. The Highway Man was a bit last minute today as needed to fill in with a story last minute. So I could call it my ten minute Highway Man story… gather what props you can and random props you have with you. I got most of the ideas from when Keith Park, Emmie Ward, Coralie Oddy and I did our Great North Wood Storytelling – The Highwaymen (and women) was one of our themes. But both were sort of creating the story around props I already had. Thanks Emmie for a few of those on display in the tweeted pic 🙂

The Gunpowder Plot

  • Now we gather around the fire and remember, remember the 5th of November! (fire on ipad and candle scent)
  • bonfireA long time ago In 1605, there was man called Guy Fawkes. (chime)
  • A long time ago In 1605, there was a King called James 1. King James was not very popular with Guy and and his friends. They were annoyed about the King and his government. (Wear crown and say ‘no we don’t like you!’ but can also say we don’t like you as King but we like you as …. say their name)
  • So, Guy Fawkes and his friends decided to have a plot, the gunpowder plot. They wanted to blow up the parliament. (Popping candy on hand/eat)
  • They filled 36 barrels with gunpowder! They planted them under the cellars of the Houses of Parliament – ready for a big explosion. (Cedar wood scent for barrels) (can emphasise the secret through quiet voice)
  • However, there was a traitor in the group! One of Guy Fawkes friends! He got worried about all the people who would get blown up. He sent a letter to his friend warning him! (Big Ben chimes on Big Mac)
  • So the police, the guards of parliament arrived – on their horses (clip clop) they went down the stairs (walking sound) and crept slowly (shhhh) and….. bang! The plot was rumbled! The plotters were arrested, tortured and executed. (Bang on the drum)
  • Now we sit and remember remember the 5th of November. We light a bonfire (fire on iPad and bonfire scent candle)
  • And sit and watch fireworks (fireworks torch and sounds or app)
  • Then go home for a nice cup of tea (have a cup of tea/tea break)


The Highwayman

It was Autumn in the woods and the leaves were gently falling

(leaves in a basket – can handle them or drop them on people/the floor)

The leaves were red, yellow, orange, green, brown

(say whatever colours you find – show the colours – can spread them between different people rather than person by person)

Animals were looking for food and the wind was rustling in the trees

(rainmaker or shaker or similar sound)

There was a damp smell in the wood – after the rain

(cedarwood or similar smell – it sounds a bit like the musty leaves, but you could also get musty leaves)

Then suddenly!! The sound of horses hooves

(clapping sticks/pieces of wood – we have some round slices of wood – we had enough for everyone to make the sound who wanted to – we also sung ‘Horsy Horsy don’t you stop because it is a favourite song of one of the people in the session)

It was a carriage with wheels going around!

(rolled hoop – saying ‘and the hoop rolled past….’ And gave a chance to push if people wanted – if not you can find anything that goes around as a visual stimuli)

There were rich people inside the carriage, enjoying looking at their jewels and money

(glass nuggets, money, or anything jewel like – we had a lot of baskets to hand so I handed a basket to everyone and then put the nuggets in each persons basket and encouraged them to look through them and be interested in them J)

But they didn’t know that someone was waiting for them! There was a swish of a cloak!

(piece of material – or a cloak if you have one – the material I grabbed was quite light so I swished it past people and over some people and gave the chance to feel)

And the brim of a hat

(feel a hat – I found a straw hat which was not really a highway man but did the job of being a hat)

The Highway Man was waiting and he said “Stand and Deliver! Your Money or Your Life!”

 (encouraged people to repeat the words ‘stand and deliver’ and sung that bit of the song)

He took all their money and jewels

(one person had a cloth bag and asked people for their money and they tipped their nuggets into the bag)

Then he rode off

(clip clop sounds)

And the animals continued looking for food and the leaves rustled in the wind

(rainshaker again – or whatever you used)

I also added on a bit about the highway man sitting by a fire and had the fire app on the ipad and also the scent of a bonfire candle – but that might make it a bit too long)

I then did a bit of call and response with ‘The Highwayman’ poem.



Session Format

Hello again,

I have been doing plenty of writing to describe the music sessions that I lead in L’Arche and so I thought it might be useful if I share the format that I use for them.

The sessions usually last about two hours with a twenty minute- half an hour tea break in the middle.

I am going to share the Bonfire Night session plan….

To continue from my previous blog entries… the session before the bonfire night one was about the rural work turning more to the towns and cities with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Elements included watching the Pandemonium section of the London Olympic Opening Ceremony. We beat on large metal and plastic flower pots and used glass nuggets to represent money in a noisy way….

I write the plan beforehand but then add any adaption I make (hence different tenses) – and there are often plenty of on the spot ideas!

As always I have many thanks to give to my fellow colleagues for taking part in the session.

Where you see the * and ** and *** you can see the ideas I learned from Emmie Ward. In particular her use of the Big Mack as a musical instrument and for recording voice. Emmie also has great techniques for the inclusion of people’s vocalisations and interests into songs.  I also learned the songs for this session from Emmie. I’ll ask Emmie to share more about that at some point as she has lots of great techniques 🙂

Bonfire Night  3rd November 2016
Attention Grabber Activity: Firework App on IpadFirstly just me taking it around before the hello song… everyone else got a turn in the soundscape
Soundscape: Bonfire Night Ssss of a Fizzy drink being opened, crackling of popping candy with water, firework app on ipad, sliding whistle, (rain maker (firework falling sound), crackling paper, bang of the drum (we said 1, 2, 3, bang – everyone has the opportunity to hit drum on the word bang) peoples vocal sounds on Big Mack to play (integrate their interests) *

Activity:We’re all walking along to the fire’  song – action: we poured salt through a flower pot into a small washing up bowl and said it was gunpowder for the gunpowder plot and listened to how it made a quiet sound and we needed to be quiet… can say shhh –

Activity (Contd.): I then said let’s listen to find out if the plan worked! – I asked: Will there be the sound of Big Ben chiming or the sound of an explosion? We counted down and then… heard… yes big ben chiming (iPad) so the plot failedName activity: (soundabout) beat X 4 then name three times and move on. (we did one name and then another) This sort of connected as if naming the names of the conspirators pouring gun powder. (could link this more to the plot or being part of something in future) **

Rhyme: Remember, remember, poem call and response (I actually did this later in storytelling)

Rhythm: Boom Whackers – continue ‘hit, rest, rest, rest’ activity, with everyone having a chance to play them. We stamp feel throughout to keep a beat and i renew the rhythm in-between every person, but anyone can play any pattern they like as it all fits… I play it on the low red one, but again anyone can do anything… The stamping and me doing it in-between seems to help people to create a connecting rhythm.

Vocal Warm Up:Included Do re mi.


London’s Burning

Ring of Fire (after singing through we repeated burn burn bit and people took turns to move the fire poi) ***

Great Balls of Fire (added peoples own endings to ‘Goodness Gracious) ***

Weaving in sounds as part of the L’Arche Music Session

Early 17th Century Woodcut

Hello again! It’s about time that I explained a bit more about what I have been doing on the  theme of rural/work life past.

Connecting with the Autumn theme I begin sessions by creating a group soundscape of  travel – train and time travel. Tibetan Chimes and other instruments such as tone chimes are useful to set the scene for going back in time. You can also add in appropriate rhythm rhymes and words. Have a google for some poems if you want something to get you started 🙂

We follow the soundscape by singing our ‘We’re All Walking’ song (courtesy of Emmie Ward) – this time singing that each person is ‘ walking back in time’. Playing the chime again signifies this. We have continued to use the turn taking activities that I described previously. Activities have included having a bowl of water and a measuring jug – scooping and pouring water  into the bowl, or ladling the water. Everyone gets a turn with the activity after we sing their name. I’ve also used popcorn instead of the water. Last week I used a short cardboard tube and everyone posted a small round piece of wood through it. (It could have been anything though – e.g. a conker or bead). Whereas the popcorn had been like grains of rural life/time, I said that posting the object through the cardboard tube was an indication of the industrial machinery that was to come. I know – I’m pushing it a bit!!!

I realised last week that soundscapes have started to take over the first half of the session. Following the turn taking activity we have moved into a second soundscape. At the moment this is a knitting/weaving soundscape. I start this section through playing a track by the band Capercaillie called M’loam. I find it creates a gentle contemplative atmosphere. To symbolise spinning wheels we roll and spin everyday objects on the floor – such as empty food containers, lids, cotton reels, wooden objects. You can roll the objects to someone or just randomly roll them, experiment and encourage others to do the same. I found a wool ball winder (from the Craft Workshop’s weaving days) and we took turns spinning that around. It is a good visual object and makes a bit of a creak too.

tapestry-forkThis activity then led into a more active sound making soundscape, where we clicked knitting needles together, tapped wooden sticks and played thumb pianos. Last week my colleague and I found some tapestry forks with metal prongs and some metal loom winders. Together they make a good guiro style sound.

The soundscape led into singing ‘Yan Tan Tethera’. It is a song I learned from Aimee Leonard that she developed as part of the Yan Tan Tethera project with the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Listen to Aimee singing it here on Soundcloud. There are more songs and information about the project at the Yan Tan Tethera project link above. Yan Tan Tethera is a sheep counting system traditionally used by shepherds in the north of England. Read more about it on wikipedia. I think it is also used for counting stitches.



I started the activity by singing the low part of Yan Tan Tethera and unwinding the wool from a ball of wool so that gradually everyone was holding onto it around in a circle. I added different voice parts gradually (taking turns with the parts myself) and people joined in with whichever part they wanted. I didn’t ask anyone to sing anything in particular and it seemed to happen naturally that people took different parts. It was also really helpful that the support staff present joined in with different parts too.

It would be interesting to experiment with colours and weaving movements and sounds as with the Yan Tan Tethera project. There is no Weaving Workshop anymore, however there are still looms in the Craft Project , which are used occasionally.

I think that is probably enough for now! More about the other songs we have sung in a future post!