23 Aug 2014

Tapping rhythm, teaching song. Part 2

 As a teaching artist for the Song Room, my week was consumed by preparing for the next session. It was a job I adored: scouting out new songs for my younger students, writing original lyrics for the older ones. My life was tuned to the sound of music!

 With Harry’s creative flame ignited by my passion to produce exciting repertoires for the two school choirs, he was my collaborative wizard, sprinkling magic into every musical arrangement he recorded in our studio. Dozens of songs with their lyrics soon filled several folders, CDs were piled high beside my desk. I worked with Jaws on my laptop and checked printed sheets with my CCTV.
Wizard Harry

Within a few months, and with the wizardry only Harry
possesses, we produced two lovely song books, complete with lyrics and accompanying CD. I felt so well equipped to teach my choirs that my nerves to find my way independently to the school each Friday was somewhat eased by being so well prepared and lovingly supported.

My briefcase bulged with song books and lyric sheets, CDs and mini-puppets which I knew would have my younger choir dancing around the music room.

The Big Sensation Concert 

One of the highlights for the senior choir (grades 5 and  6) under my choral leadership was an invitation to sing as part of a choir of three hundred children.

The Song Room funded The Big Sensation Concert, where they brought together seven school choirs from around Victoria to share the limelight in one colourful performance.

We had ten weeks to learn a repertoire of six songs chosen by the choir director, Bronwyn Culcutt, a talented musician and choir leader (and the friend who had suggested I contact the Song Room a few months previously).

She arranged the tunes into two-part harmonies, providing all the teaching artists a practice CD to follow when teaching the various choirs our respective parts.

The truly fun part was being given free reign to choose one song we would perform to showcase our choirs, in my case, a highly eager group of thirty-five voices. I presented an upbeat pop song called, Peace by Piece – and my choir was hooked.

We were soon rockin’ and bopping to the lively tune. The lyrics reverberated around my thoughts well after the session, and my white cane tapped in time, bouncing off city pavements and cobblestones, as I grooved all the way home.

 Sparkling eyes and flashing smiles 

 During weekly choir rehearsals, my group and I jived to the swinging melodies, all eyes watching my theatrical hand gestures and body movements. I marvelled at my choir’s ability to follow their visually-impaired choir leader and had to trust they were paying full attention to my ‘solo’ performance.

 I moved around with over-accentuated body gestures while mouthing the lyrics to each song so I could give maximum visual instructions for the group to understand when to sing softly, when to raise their voices, when to all come in together and when to finish on a clear single note, and above all, when to dazzle the audience with their flashing smiles!

 The girls sang their hearts out, being in their element as they imitated their pop idols. Teaching music was a sheer joy. They loved it as much as I did.

Part of me went into a time bubble, floating back to my teenage years when music blared from stereo speakers, little-miss-me, dreaming of becoming the next Olivia Newton-John!

Buzzing with pride 

Performance day arrived and the Melbourne Town Hall was a hive of activity. Over three hundred excited child-proteges were buzzing with anticipation. Supervising teachers from seven schools droned like ‘worker bees’, placing groups of choristers under colourful banners to form one huge hexagonal shape on stage.

 I waited in the foyer until my choir arrived and was grateful to be led by two of my ‘girls’ as we darted through the crowd and took up our spot on stage, avoiding the swarm of teachers and volunteers fussing with last minute preparations.

Lights on – wave those rainbow-coloured flags – we’re on! For the first few songs, I rocked and swayed with my choir, as if at a pop concert, feeling the adrenalin of live musicians pumping from the band to a thrilled audience, the three hundred voice choir trilling above the beat

 Then there was a hush as the audience shifted its gaze when a bright spotlight fell onto our group. I stepped out from the shadows with one of my Grade 6 singers who led me to take centre stage in front of my choir.

Panic struck momentarily – what if I’m not facing the right group? What if I bounce around so much during our performance that I don’t notice I’m going offstage? What if…?

 The band rocked into our tune and I felt a great surge of energy. Arms swung wildly, my face lit up to encourage my girls to perform their best for our début performance.

They gave it all they had and by the end of our pop-rocking song we were almost flying into the air with sheer happiness. Proud parents and teachers applauded their appreciation and the spotlight swivelled around the hall once more to highlight the next choir.

 I moved back to be closer to my group, giggles of delight greeted my ears and a warm touch on my arm from their class teacher tingled with appreciation. As I smiled from my heart, one of the girls tugged gently at my sleeve and said, “Hey, Maribel! We’re famous!”

“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Dr. Seuss

You might also like to read Part One below…and share how music rocks your world…

Listen to and Download some tracks recorded by my quartet, The Lollipops 

 © 2014 Maribel Steel


Anonymous said...

Wow, what an exciting experience! I also sing with a group, but I don't direct it. We're all women, and we sing three and four-part harmony, some accompanied on keyboard, some not. I hope you have continued success with your group.

maribel steel said...

Thanks Abbie, great to hear from you and that you sing harmonies in a group too, it's so uplifting. I don't run these choirs at the moment but I'm always singing...if you go to part 2 just under this post, there are 3 music samples of my songs...playing a celtic harp as well...must get back to that too! Happy singing, thanks for visiting, Maribel