Music Time: A Christmas Journey

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started19th Sep 1977
ended28th Nov 1977
last rpt3rd Dec 1981
5 school years
duration20 mins
subject 🎶MusicMusic
age rangeAge 7-9
languageenIn English
Music TimeHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: Spells and Riddles

A Christmas Journey is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Music Time from the 1970s and 1980s, covering Music for primary school pupils.

{{Leader|The first term in a new series of Music Time, with new presenters Kathryn Harries and Peter Combe, and made in colour for the first time. The fundamental components of the series remain the same - the presenters sing songs and encourage viewers to join in with the signing or accompaniments and simply listen to music, and this leads to work on pitch & rhythm and creative work with sounds.

The new elements are the style of the presenters and the structure of the series into focussed units of 2 or 3 episodes at a time concentrating on particular types of work.}] This page actually covers 4 different units of programmes all shown within the same term, culminating with a production called A Christmas Journey.

The first unit on Sounds Around Us provides a basic introduction pitch and duration. The next, Feel the Beat covers different types of musical time and rhythm, and Collecting Sounds introduces dynamics of loud and soft sound and tempo changes. The final 3 programmes of the term include work on the story of A Christmas Journey.

This term's programmes deliberately aimed to promote viewers' enthusiasm for joining in with fun songs as much as sensitivity and accuracy in singing[1], and there is no particular use of solfa to teach accurate pitch as there had been in all of the previous Music Time programmes.

A Christmas Journey

Carols in Victorian times

A musical production that children could perform themselves at the end of term, although the version produced by Music Time benefits from elaborate sets and costumes in the studio. It begins with a modern 'rock carol'[2], and then follows a journey in a time machine to several periods in British history to sing carols from each era, concluding in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus.

Each journey in the time machine is accompanied by the Travelling song.

Performing in medieval times

The time machine first stops in a Victorian parlour, where children sing the carol See amid the winter's snow and the music hall song Mrs Houlighan's Christmas Cake.

It them travels to an Elizabethan manor house where the guests perform a dance to Good King Wenceslas and a group of wassailers sing the Wassail song.

The time machine moves on to medieval times to witness the procession of the ass accompanied by Orientis Partibus - the teacher's notes explain that this is sung in the original Latin because "juniors often like the sounds of these words."

Finally the time machine arrives at the crib of baby Jesus, and all of the children from each era join together to sing a 'reggae carol' , Jesus Birthday Carol.


Song'Neath the Lilac

She sat 'neath the lilac and played her guitar,
Played her guitar, played her guitar.

Old community song, traditional.

SongThree Little Pigs

Oh, there was once a sow who had three little pigs,
Three little piggies had she.

Words and music by Guy Carawan, taken from Sing Out vol. 4 no. 7, Music Sales Ltd.

SongThe Galloping Major

Bumpity, bumpity, bumpity bump, As if I was riding my charger.
Bumpity, bumpity, bumpity bump, As proud as an Indian Rajah.

English music hall song. Words and music by Fred Leigh, music by George Baston.


Good day, good day to you, Good day, O dipidu,
Dip, dip, dipidu, Dipidu, O dipidu.

Ugandan folk song. English words by Joan Gilbert van Poznak. From UNICEF Book of Children's Songs compiled by William Kaufman.

SongWake Snake

Wake, snake, day is a-breaking, Peas in the pot and the hoe-cakes a-baking,
Green corn, green corn.

Green Corn (Wake Snake), a dance from Louisiana, USA, by Huddie Ledbetter, Kensington Music Ltd.

SongOh the Wind Blew East

Oh the wind blew east, Oh the wind blew west,
Oh the wind blew the 'Sunshine' right down to town.

Folk song from the Bahamas, traditional.

SongTinga Layo

Tinga Layo! Come little donkey, come.
Tinga Layo! Come little donkey, come.

Jamaican folk song, traditional.

SongJennie Jenkins

Will you wear white, O my dear, O my dear?
O will you wear white Jennie Jenkins?

Anglo-American folk song, traditional.

SongSunday Morning Tune

There was one, there were two, there were three little angels,
There were four, there were five, there were six little angels...

American folk song, traditional.

The following songs make up the musical A Christmas Journey.

SongEvery Star Shall Sing a Carol

Every star shall sing a carol; Every creature, high or low,
Come and praise the King of Heaven by whatever name you know.

Words and music by Sydney Carter, from Sydney Carter in the present tense, Stainer and Bell Ltd.


Gliding, gliding, shining blue, the earth ship sails and we're the crew,
We travel past the moon's white face, behind the sun to darkest space.

Music by Bruce Cole, words by Brian Kenny, Stainer and Bell Ltd.

SongSee amid the winter's snow

Hail! Thouever blessed morn! Hail, Redemption's happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Words by Rev E. Caswell, music by Sir John Goss.

SongMrs Houlighan's Christmas Cake

There was plums an' prunes an' cherries,
There was raisins an' currants an' cinnamon too...

Music hall, traditional.

SongWassail Song

Love and joy come to you, And to you your wassail too,
And God bless you, and send you a Happy New Year.

Yorkshire carol, traditional.

SongOrientis Partibus

From the lands of Orient, Was the Ass divinely sent,
Strong and very fair was he, Bearing burdens gallantly.

Medieval French carol, song of the ass.

SongJesus Birthday Carol

Palm tree lean out over blue sea.
Robin Redbreast and green holly.

Music by Bruce Cole, words by Brian Kenny, Stainer and Bell Ltd.


# Title Broadcast Archive
Sounds Around Us
1. Sounds Around Us 1977/09/1919 Sep 1977 BBC
2. High Sounds, Low Sounds 1977/09/2626 Sep 1977 BBC
3. Long Sounds, Short Sounds 1977/10/033 Oct 1977 BBC
Feel the Beat
4. Marching and Waltzing 1977/10/1010 Oct 1977 BBC
5. Rhythm 1977/10/1717 Oct 1977 BBC
Collecting Sounds
6. Collecting Sounds 1977/10/2424 Oct 1977 BBC
7. Sound Traps 1977/11/077 Nov 1977 BBC
A Christmas Journey
8. Introduction 1977/11/1414 Nov 1977 BBC
9. A Christmas Journey 1 1977/11/2121 Nov 1977 BBC
10. A Christmas Journey 2 1977/11/2828 Nov 1977 BBC


Presented by Kathryn Harries
Peter Combe
Producer John Hosier


Pupils' pamphlet

Pupils' pamphlet

A 24-page pamphlet with words, music and accompaniments for all of the songs.

Illustrated by André Amstutz.

Teacher's notes

Autumn 1977 teacher's notes
Autumn 1981 teacher's notes

The teacher's notes, written by the unit's original producer John Hosier (who left the series in 1978, so the later reprints of the notes were under the new producer Elizabeth Bennett) and include an introduction to the new format of the series and details of the contents of each unit and each episode.

The Autumn 1977 notes were issued as part of the BBC TV Notes combined booklet with pull-out sections for each of Music Time, Merry-Go-Round and Look and Read, but later reprints separated each series into its own booklet.

Record & Cassette

LP cover

A stereo LP and cassette containing songs from several of the Music Time units presented by Kathryn Harries and Peter Combe was issued by BBC Enterprises in 1979.

The songs included from this term are Jennie Jenkins, Wake Snake, Three Little Pigs, Tinga Layo, Sunday Morning Tune, and Wassail Song and Every Star Shall Sing a Carol from A Christmas Journey.

The record had catalogue number REC 362, and the cassette ZCM 362. Both were released to the general public, and they were available to schools for £2.99.


  • Autumn 1977: Mondays 11:22am, repeated Wednesdays 10:23am.
  • Autumn 1979: Mondays 10:15am, repeated Thursdays 2:15pm.
  • Autumn 1981: Mondays 10:15am, repeated Thursdays 2:15pm.

Sources & References

  • BBC (1977) Music Time teacher's notes, Autumn Term 1977. ISBN 0 563 30001 9
  • BBC (1979a) Music Time pupils' pamphlet, Autumn 1979. ISBN 0 563 30924 5
  • BBC (1979b) BBC Radio and Television Annual Programme for Schools and Colleges 1979-80. ISBN 0 563 16308 9. p.24.
  • BBC (1979c) Music Time: Songs from the BBC Schools TV Series with Kathryn Harries and Peter Combe LP, BBC Records REC 362 Stereo.
  • BBC (1981a) Music Time pupils' pamphlet, Autumn 1981. ISBN 0 563 31760 4
  • BBC (1981b) Music Time teacher's notes, Autumn Term 1981. ISBN 0 563 31761 2
  • BBC (1981c) BBC Education Radio and Television for Schools Annual Programme 1981-82 p.26.
  1. BBC (1977) p.4 acknowledged that "perhaps in past programmes we have been too meticulous in our teaching of songs. The average class of first year juniors is unlikely to sound like King's College Choir," and concludes that "in the first instance it is important to establish music as an enjoyable occupation."
  2. The Music Time teacher's notes (BBC (1977) p.48 and BBC (1981b) p.15) describe A Christmas Journey beginning "in the present, with a rock carol Follow that star. Your children will be expected to join in with the children in the studio to sing this." Follow That Star is not mentioned anywhere else and the words are not included in the teacher's notes or pupils' pamphlets, so it may be that classes are simply expected to be familiar with a well-known carol without further introduction.


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