Beware the Ides of March

Guest blogger, Anneli James, writes…

On 23 April, I was teaching singing to a lovely year 6 boy at my favourite primary school. He has just got a merit for his Grade 1 singing and we were choosing new pieces for him to learn, and especially a suitable one for the school concert.

We debated the pros and cons of singing a well known song that people would enjoy hearing, against the fact that they would know if he made a mistake. Shortlisted, but rejected, were: ‘Consider Yourself’ (Oliver!), ‘No Matter What’ (Whistle Down the Wind, although apparently more notably covered by Boyzone), and ‘Summer Holiday’ (Summer Holiday).

Finally, and somewhat as a last resort, I asked if he’d like to sing Lin Marsh’s ‘Beware the Ides of March’. I told him it was a song about Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. In great excitement my pupil exclaimed, “Shakespeare! Wasn’t he a Tudor? And he wrote stuff! We are doing Tudors in class. Won’t an audience be impressed if I can sing something by Shakespeare?” He asked me to play him the song.

It is exciting, slow and menacing in a minor key with plenty of piano tremellos. We discussed the plot briefly, and chatted about Shakespeare writing a play about something that was ancient history even to him. ‘Beware the Ides of March’ beat all the other shortlisted songs, by virtue of the Shakespeare connection.

My pupil went home very happily to try and get his head around complicated words like Caesar, Cassius, conspiracy, prophecy. The song will be featured in the June concert — wish us luck! And a big congratulations to the wonderful class teacher who inspired them with such excitement about Shakespeare. It just seemed a wonderful thing to happen on his birthday!

Anneli James