Whilst you’re busy picking your schools’ next summer musical, we thought you may like to hear more about what happens behind the scenes with some of our best primary school musicals. Rebecca Kincaid has been writing for Out of the Ark Music for about six years now and, with the help of her lovely writing partner, Gaynor Boddy, has written 3 of our favourite musicals including Hats Off!, Pirates Versus Mermaids and There’s A Sunflower In My Supper! Eager to find out the secret ingredient to making a magical musical, we decided to interview Rebecca and share her wisdom with you!
What started you on the path of writing musicals?
My writing partner and I started writing when we were at senior school together – silly songs and sketches that we would perform in all sorts of places and a pantomime for the sixth formers. When our children started at primary school and we got involved in their schools, we found we had lots of writing ideas and wondered whether we could write a musical for that age group.
You’ve written a range of musicals covering a variety of themes as well as age ranges. How do you go about developing these musicals to fit with the differing needs and abilities of such a broad primary age range?
I’m really lucky that I work a lot with children – from running toddler music groups to conducting a very large primary school choir for 5-11 year olds. I have the privilege of going into school regularly and working with different year groups on various musical projects and from this experience we try to mould all of our writing to fit the relevant age groups. (I also try out lots of song ideas on the children to see whether certain songs engage the right age group!) I’ve been able to put on some of the musicals we’ve written with the children I work with and that really helps to guide the writing process the next time we’re writing a musical.
Out of all of your musicals, do you have a personal favourite, and if so why?
We honestly love all the musicals we’ve written and each one has its own special place, but there is something about Pirates Versus Mermaids that is particularly special. The script that Gaynor wrote is not only incredibly funny, but full of great characters that the children love bringing to life. The songs are all great performance pieces and the children just love going head to head in I Don’t Like Pirates as the pirates sing about how much they don’t like the mermaids and vice versa! The whole premise of the pirate training school and the feisty mermaids just gave so much inspiration for what I hope are really fun songs to perform! I was able to put this musical on with a group of 5-11 year olds and it was so exciting to see the children throw themselves into the acting and singing – all helped by the healthy competition between the pirates and the mermaids. I think the other particularly appealing thing about this musical is pretty much everyone is a pirate or a mermaid, so however small your part is, you feel a part of the bigger story.
You co-write with Gaynor Boddy. How do you go about writing a musical with another person? Do you find one focuses more on the songs and the other the script?
Although we spend time a lot of time together coming up with ideas, shaping the musical as it develops and honing the whole thing, we actually have very separate roles when it comes to writing them. Gaynor writes the scripts and I write the songs.
How do you go about choosing a theme to craft into a musical?
We love to find a theme that we think will really engage the children and provide a means of creating fabulous songs and great characters. Gaynor is one of the most creative people I have ever met and has wonderful ideas that we weave together once our theme has been chosen.
Do you ever experience ‘writer’s block’? If so, what do you do to overcome it?
Yes we do! But this is where it really helps to have two people involved in the writing process. Apart from bouncing ideas off each other regularly, when we experience writer’s block on a particular bit of script or some song lyrics, we can pass them over to the other one for a bit of inspiration or some direction. Often it may just be a tiny idea from the other one that sparks the process back to life, or just a conversation and a fresh look at it.
What do you think makes a good musical for primary school children?
Catchy, great-to-perform songs that they won’t be able to get out of their heads and a fabulous script full of humour and great characters that are easy to bring to life. We want the children to be really excited about the musicals they’re putting on, so we spend a lot of time trying to make sure that we are writing to achieve this, ensuring every role is good to play, even the smallest ones, and that the songs really lend themselves to the best performance that the children can give. It’s also really important to make them as adaptable as possible as schools may put them on with a small group of children or 200 children, so we strive to make them work for as many different scenarios as possible.
Your most recent musical Hats Off! has many learning opportunities within it. Do you think these through thoroughly to begin with or do they form as you’re writing the musical?
A bit of both really - a lot of them are thought through thoroughly before we begin, but one of the most exciting things about the writing process is that often the script or the songs take us in a slightly different direction to what has been planned. A particular song may bring out a new idea that Gaynor will then weave into the script or a particular idea in the script may spark a song that takes a totally different direction. Shaping a whole musical is really exciting and, certainly with Hats Off!, some of the ideas took shape as we wrote.
Do you ever have the opportunity to watch your musicals being performed? Do any of these performances really stick in your mind?
We have been invited to see our musicals performed in various schools and it’s always a privilege to see our writing brought to life. One amazing production of There’s A Sunflower In My Supper had the most hilarious child playing Mr Bull – it’s a comedy character anyway, but it was amazing to see a 7-year-old being able to give him so much character and comic timing.
We are both passionate about environmental issues and would love to write a really engaging musical that helps to make children more aware of some of the issues.
Interviewed by Georgia Cooke - Head Of Creative Marketing, Out of the Ark Music Team.
Did you know that May is National Share A Story month? Look our for our next blog in which we share some staff-favourite traditional tales.
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Out of the Ark Music has been providing schools across the country – and world – with wonderful primary school musicals and primary school songs for nearly 30 years. Our Christmas musicals and nativity plays make children sparkle and shine, year after year, as they proudly perform their school Christmas play. Our extensive collection of fun and joyous Easter songs, harvest songs, school assembly songs, leavers songs and even space songs, fill schools with laughter and give students and teachers alike, a reason to sing every day of the week. We’re glad you’re supporting us in our dreams of creating the best music for schools around the globe. Read more about us here.