“Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad.” W.C. Fields
For the month of December, Choral Potpourri will be a little bit of everything choral. It is our busiest time of year and to break up the tension, I thought we’d begin with a few stories about children and choirs……funny stories (and touching stories) about children and choirs….because we need to laugh…..especially at this time of year! Please share some of yours with us too.
Like many of you, one of my chamber choir sopranos, Ellen, is an elementary school music teacher. She directs fourth and fifth grade choruses and told us this story during our concert’s intermission several weeks ago. She was teaching the concept of the “pickup” note to her fifth grade chorus. One little boy asked her to tell him which note was the pickup line in the piece they were beginning. She tried to explain it was a pickup note he meant and not a pickup line. He kept insisting it was a pickup line. And he wanted to know what the difference was. She hemmed and hawed and isn’t sure what she actually said, but he seemed satisfied enough to let it drop!
One December, it was a terrible cold and flu season leading up to the annual holiday concert for Annie* and her grade school chorus. She wasn’t sure who would be well enough to sing for their concert, including one of her soloists and half the boys’ section. When told her 40 member chorus was struggling with illness and she wasn’t sure if they would be able to have a concert, her principal told her to “suck it up” because they were not going to cancel it. Even if it meant only two kids were singing! Thank goodness, most of the kids were well enough to sing the concert and were in okay voice, but many of them were coughing or sneezing between numbers. After the concert, one of the parents joked Annie was directing a “coughing chorus” as well as the regular chorus. Her singers seemed to be in better health the week after their concert, right before winter break. But the principal was quite ill. He thinks he picked up whatever bug the chorus had. Annie felt sorry for him for exactly two seconds!
Gavin*’s church children’s choir sang every year for their church’s Living Nativity night. Each member of the Nativity was added, one by one, with an appropriate carol sung by one of the church’s choirs. The angels had the women’s ensemble, often accompanied by the bell choir. The shepherds had the adult choir, the Magi, the men’s group and Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph, by the children’s choir. It has always been done this way. Last year, they had a new Pastor and he wanted to put his own personal “spin” on it. Instead of sounding so “rehearsed” and “practiced,” he asked each choir to pray and come up with something spontaneously. The children had always sung “Silent Night,” one of the highlights of the evening. Since Pastor wanted them to be spontaneous, he asked Gavin not to rehearse with them and allow them to come up something, themselves. It was with baited breath the kids waited for Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus. Gavin stayed out of it. The kids began singing, spontaneously, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the WHOLE crowd joined right in, laughing. This year, Pastor asked Gavin to have the children sing, “Silent Night.” ‘
One of the most moving Holiday concerts I’ve ever attended was one in which my son, Russell, participated. Russell has autism and is non-verbal but loves music. In his junior high program, he was privileged to attend a music class taught by a wonderful lady, the late Betty Krebs. She insisted special learners should have the same opportunities as everyone else and always had holiday and spring concerts for her students. When she told me Russell had a featured part in her holiday concert one year, I didn’t believe her. Russell signed (using American Sign Language) “Up on the House Top” while his classmates sang. It made me cry because I never believed he would be able to do anything like that. Sometimes, there is such a thing as a Christmas miracle!