Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Once Again

It's that time of year again.  The time when you look forward to an evening of holiday music, festive cheer and a sense of togetherness and community.  Unfortunately, none of those things are to be found at LM's Holiday Christmas Concert.

I posted about his concert a year ago.   I took witnesses to his spring concert to prove I wasn't kidding.  The third time around was as entertaining (in a sad, sorry sort of way) as the first two.  I'll recap the evening for those of you fortunate enough to have missed it.

On the way to the concert, LM and I joked about what was to be expected.  He was holding out hope that the choir will have greatly improved since there's a new director in place.  We both wondered how many students will be in the orchestra.  I admitted it would have been difficult to have encouraged my orchestral child after hearing last year's dismal performance.

When we arrive, I'm disappointed to find the program lists only the songs to be performed and not the students' names.   I have barely gotten comfortable in my seat, however, when I realize the reason for this is obvious.  The orchestra director was on stage setting up music stands for his group and he has only set up four stands in front of the eight chairs in the front row.  

I was even more discouraged when I saw only four violinists and three bass players come on the stage.  I was about to receive further bad news, however, when the director announced his group of students and welcomed the THREE high school bass players that were there to "help out" the orchestra.  Orchestra?  Four violins does not an orchestra make.  That's a string quartet for crying out loud.  Let's just face it, this man has an awfully cushy job of directing a small string ensemble at best.  And yet he calls himself the "Director of Orchestra".  His words, not mine. 

The Middle School Orchestra String Ensemble Beginning Violin Class

With baited breath I hoped that the smaller numbers (and by smaller, I must note that last year there were no more than a dozen in the orchestra) there has been perhaps more attention given to each student.  Perhaps the music will be that much more involved.  But alas, another disappointment.  The same tunes quite nearly as last year.  Fiddles on Fire followed by Fumbling Fingers and I'd have to say it all sounded like someone was fumbling around in a fire indeed.  

In all honesty, I really feel for these students.  These are sixth through eighth graders, which means some of them have been in this orchestra, ensemble, string quartet for two years already.  To still be playing beginner music must be incredibly discouraging indeed. 

After the three songs by the orchestra, the choir came on the stage.  The director took quite some time to set up a couple of music stands.  One on either side of the group (later it became clear these were for the benefit of the soloists, although only one of the stands actually held any music).  He also set up a music stand right in the front middle of the whole group, proceeded to turn it around backwards and hung huge sheets of paper over it with the lyrics to each song handwritten for the choir to see. 

There was still no harmony, although I will admit, there was a slight moment of a brief two-part vocal in one song.  The soloists had microphones in front of them, but apparently no one saw fit to make sure they were on or working, so it was impossible to hear the timid voices.  I was fortunate, however.  There was a mother and high school-aged daughter sitting right behind me and the daughter not only knew the words to each of the songs the choir performed (and to think, she didn't even have the advantage of the lyric sheets within her view!) but she also chose to sing them loud enough for me to hear above the choir.  (Note: the mother did make over a dozen attempts to shush her child, but apparently her daughter is deaf as she did not hear a single protest on her mother's part.)   Lucky me, I was saved the agony of actually listening to the choir by this very courteous student behind me.

The same antics were in play this year for the choir as last.  We had a bizarre fashion ensemble going.  From jeans and sneakers to well, jeans and open-toed high heeled shoes (mind you, there's snow on the ground and we walked in to the concert in freezing rain).  

Weather Report: Heat wave hits Southwest Michigan.  Dress for summer!

There were still the students that stood with arms folded and rolling eyes for the duration of the concert as though they were forced to be there instead of participating in an elective class.

I AM happy to be here.  I AM happy to be here.  I AM happy to be here.

When at last the choir ended their performance (with none other than a rousing sing-a-long rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You", a song no holiday concert is complete without) I was relieved to see LM's band director take the stage and take control.

The band set up, moving drums, setting up stands and getting prepared for their portion of the evening.  As the director started to prepare the students to tune their instruments, a group in the audience choreographed a unison shout out of "Go Willa!" followed almost immediately by another group shouting support to another band member and so on as if in competition of one another.  LM's band director took the microphone and immediately kaboshed the activity.  I nearly applauded the man right then and there.

Finally, a voice of authority and respect!

LM's band, again, was wonderful. They performed not only with talent and discipline, but with class.  His director pushes them and holds them to a higher standard and it shows.  I was impressed and very pleased.  

The Middle School Concert Band

Afterwards, I took the time to talk with his director, as I always do, and to thank him again, for such a wonderful portion of the evening.  We talked about LM and how he's had two more years of band than any of the students in the group now (his elementary school in PA started band in fourth grade, here they didn't get instruments until sixth) and his director and I talked about getting LM into private lessons to keep him challenged.  He also mentioned the possibility of working LM in to some of the high school performances (I won't create a false impression here, the high school band he directs is maybe twenty members at most.  LM's director's greatest hope is that LM will attend that high school in town).  

LM, First Trumpet

Knowing now that I need only to wait for the band and I will be impressed, I was able to sit through this concert with far less anxiety than the first.  LM is doing a great job leading the band as first trumpet and his director really expects LM to be a strong leader and to play well.  I'm glad there is someone at LM's school who holds him accountable, even if he's not able to provide a challenging enough environment to keep LM learning.  

LM and one of his best friends, D, both squinting through the stage lights trying to locate their mothers. 

We went for ice cream afterwards and laughed about the concert.  I was telling LM about one of the girls in the choir and her ongoing antics when he confessed that was the girl that had asked him to the dance in sixth grade.  I was suddenly very pleased that he had not gone with her then!  

There will be another concert in the spring and LM is already looking forward to performing a Phantom of the Opera medley then.  Me?  I'm looking forward in particular to the string duet.

1 comment:

stacy said...

way to go, LM! so glad the band was not a disappointment like the rest! (oh, the things a mother endures for her kid! lol.)