Music Time: Spells and Riddles

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started28th Apr 1971
ended23rd Jun 1971
last rptJun 1977
7 school years
duration20 mins
subject 🎶MusicMusic
age rangeAge 7-9
languageenIn English
Music TimeHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious unit: Travel and Transport Next unit: A Christmas Journey HierarchyNext.gif

Spells and Riddles is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Music Time from the 1970s, covering Music for primary school pupils.

The songs and activities in this term of Music Time are all linked to the theme of spells and riddles. Children are encouraged to perform "spells" to change a piece of music in some way (the "spell" is performed as a chime or cymbal crash after which for example a soft piece of music may be performed more loudly, a high pitched tune may be lower pitched, or the time signature may be changed) and many of the song lyrics are riddles.

Ian Serraillier wrote several original spells and riddles which were printed in the pupils' pamphlet for children to set to their own music.

Two stories are told in the listening music throughout this term - The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas, about a lazy apprentice who brings a broomstick to life to carry water, is featured across the first three episodes, accompanied by an animated film by Bura and Hardwick. Beauty and the Beast from the Mother Goose suite by Ravel is featured in the next three, but I am not sure whether this was accompanied by puppets[1]. In the 7th episode there is an extract from Ravel's opera The Child and Enchanments (L'enfant et les sortilèges) full of the magical sounds of a garden at night.

The rest of Programme 7 is taken up with playing the "Music Time Game". This was a board game, reproduced in the pupils' pamphlet - although viewers did not need the pamphlets during the broadcast - where each square of the board (below) contains a reference to one of the term's songs or a riddle referring to the lyrics and tunes learnt. Players landing on a square with a picture have to find the corresponding tune (by singing or playing each one in turn) and vice versa.

Other techniques used in these programmes include using music notation to give the rhythm of people's names (as in squares 5 and 10 of the Music Time Game board) and making up tunes from building blocks of individual bars.

The Music Time Game board from the pupils' pamphlet



Get along home, Cindy, Cindy, get along home,
Cindy, Cindy, get along home, Cindy, Cindy, I'll marry you some day.

Traditional, arranged by John Hosier.

SongWe Have Planted in Our Garden

We have planted in our garden beans and peas and pickling cabbage;
Came our neighbour's greedy chickens and scratch'd them all up.

Czech Folksong from Children's Songs from Other Lands by C. K. Offer, W. Paxton & Co Ltd.

SongThe Deaf Woman's Courtship

Old woman, old woman, are you fond of smoking?
Speak a little louder, sir, I'm rather hard of hearing.

Collected by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles from Eighty English Folk Songs, Novello & Co Ltd.

SongPoor Donkey

You have fetch'd the donkey straw instead of hay,
So what can the donkey do but bray and bray and bray?

From Five-to-Eleven by Mary Barham Johnson, Faber Music Ltd.

SongThe Man in the Wood

I see a little man standing in the wood,
And wrapped around his head is a spotted hood.

German children's song, words by Alan Platt (BBC).

SongWhat's Little Babies Made Of?

What's old women made of, made of? What's old women made of?
Reels and jeels and old spinning wheels, And that's what old women are made of.

Appalachian Folksong collected by Cecil Sharp, Oxford University Press.

SongThe Riddle Song

I gave my love a cherry that has no stones,
I gave my love a chicken that has no bones.

Appalachian Folksong collected by Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles from Eighty English Folk Songs, Novello & Co Ltd.

SongThe Devil's Questions

If you can't answer my questions nine (Sing ninety nine and ninety!)
Oh you're not God's you're one of mind (And you're not the weavers bonny.)


The programmes did not have titles but were numbered in the teacher's notes and Radio Times.

Programme 7 is mostly taken up with playing The Music Time Game.

Programme 8 is a concert in which most of the songs from the term are sung again, along with some of the listening music.

None of the episodes from this term are available from BBC archive catalogue, and I don't think the BBC has complete recordings of any of these programmes. They may still have some clips & source material from the episodes with an entry in the "Archive" column in the episode list below.

# Title Listening music Creative work Instruments Broadcast Archive
1. Programme 1 The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas Spells changing waltz into march & soft into loud The trumpet with mutes, demonstrated by David Mason 1971/04/2828 Apr 1971
2. Programme 2 The Sorcerer's Apprentice Spells changing 3 time into 2 time The bassoon 1971/05/055 May 1971 BBC
3. Programme 3 The Sorcerer's Apprentice Spells changing low into high & down into up The bassoon & the clarinet, including the bass clarinet demonstrated by Colin Bradbury 1971/05/1212 May 1971
4. Programme 4 Beauty and the Beast by Ravel Balloon spell The clarinet 1971/05/1919 May 1971 BBC
5. Programme 5 Beauty and the Beast Accompaniments to spoken spells & riddles Double bassoon 1971/05/2626 May 1971
6. Programme 6 Beauty and the Beast Short into long The violin demonstrated by Charles Meinardi and the harp demonstrated by Ann Griffiths 1971/06/099 Jun 1971 BBC
7. The Music Time Game 'The Garden' from The Child and Enchantments by Ravel Tape recorder effects - 1971/06/1616 Jun 1971 BBC
8. End-of-Term Concert - - - 1971/06/2323 Jun 1971 BBC



Pupils' pamphlet

Pupils' pamphlet

A 24-page pamphlet containing words, music and accompaniments for the term's songs, plus riddles and spells that children could set to music themselves, a page of tune building bricks for children's own compositions, and the game board and rules for The Music Time Game.

The pamphlet is illustrated by Errol Le Cain.

Teacher's notes

1971 teacher's notes
1973 teacher's notes

Notes on the content of each episode and suggested preparation work, details of the songs chosen and further work that could be done on them in the classroom. There is also a page of guitar chords and accompaniments provided by Ian Humphris.

The original 1971 notes were 20 pages long. They were rewritten and rearranged into a 24 page booklet from 1973 onwards.


LP cover

Most of this term's songs were included on the 1972 Music Time LP (detailed on the Peter and the Wolf page). It includes renditions of Cindy, The Deaf Woman's Courtship, We Have Planted, What's Little Babies Made Of?, Man in the Wood and Riddle Song.

The songs on the LP are sung by Mari Griffith and Ian Humphris with children from Hermitage Junior School.


  • Summer 1971: Wednesdays 10:00am, repeated Fridays 11:35am on BBC1.
  • Summer 1973: Wednesdays 10:00am, repeated Fridays 11:00am on BBC1.
  • Summer 1975: Mondays 11:22am, repeated Tuesdays 2:02pm on BBC1.
  • Summer 1977: Mondays 11:22am, repeated Thursdays 11:30am on BBC1.

The 1976-77 annual programme catalogue advertised that a new unit of Music Time programmes would be shown in summer 1977, beginning a progressive up-dating of the series which had, by that time, been repeated without any changes for 4 years. In the event the progressive up-dating of Music Time did not take place. This unit was repeated for one final time in summer 1977, and then an entirely new version of the series with two new presenters was introduced from autumn 1977, beginning with A Christmas Journey.

Sources & References

  • BBC (1971) Music Time teacher's notes, Summer Term 1971. ISBN 0 563 10025 7
  • BBC (1972) Music Time LP, BBC Records Roundabout No. 14.
  • BBC (1973a) Music Time pupils' pamphlet, Summer 1973. ISBN 0 563 10024 9
  • BBC (1973b) Music Time teacher's notes, Summer Term 1973. ISBN 0 563 19911 3
  • BBC (1975) Music Time pupils' pamphlet, Summer 1975. ISBN 0 563 13675 8
  • BBC (1976) BBC Radio and Television Annual Programme for Schools and Colleges 1976-7. ISBN 0 563 16031 4. p.51.
  • Radio Times television listings, 1971-1977
  1. Bura and Hardwick were not credited in the Radio Times for any puppet films in this unit. The teacher's notes (BBC (1973b) p.2) indicate that "we shall isolate several key moments (from The Sorcerer's Apprentice), which we shall illustrate with puppets." The 6-minute Bura and Hardwick film of that story was re-used in a 1974 episode of Watch, strongly suggesting that Music Time had a puppet film made. But I can find no reference in the teacher's notes to say that Beauty and the Beast would be told with a puppet film, nor any other reference to a Bura and Hardwick version of Beauty and the Beast. The latter story may simply have been told with static illustrations, if it had any visual accompaniment at all.

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