So after a lapse of several years, the school principal asked me about beginning a children's choir again. I've done this several times in the past. It comes and goes depending on the interest of the kids in school. We've done everything from singing at the kids' Masses to performing on stage in front of other district school choirs.
It's always been an interesting subject to teach seeing how one; I have never learned how to read music and have always learned songs and sung by ear; two; the teaching degree I received some 30 years ago was in Secondary Education English and Journalism, not exactly Music, choral directing or high school and three; it's always been a voluntary job so the incentive is I just happen to love singing want to instill that love of music in the future generation!
To fit practice into my schedule and the kids, we would only be meeting once a week, Mondays after school for 20 minutes. That may seem like a very short time in which to teach music, but I've honed this skill down over the years and it seems to be the right fit for this age group and for my sanity!
Our first choir practice was yesterday with 22 very eager, noisy 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders bouncing up and down on metal chairs in the school music room right after school. Getting them quiet was taking a little more brain cells than I remember having.
While I took roll and learned names and faces, I had one of the students pass out the music we were going to practice, a song I sure that everyone knew, somehow forgetting that age and time is catching up with me. Doesn't everyone know "Let There Be Peace On Earth?" Hmmm, not these kids. A show of hands got me five out of the 22 that had heard it before. Well, it was easy enough to learn so we began, a capella. The other downside to not knowing how to read music was I also didn't play piano or know my way around anything besides Middle C. I totally depend upon my guitar to find my starting notes for songs. I strummed and all I heard was myself singing. So much for teaching the other two songs I had planned for the day. Arguing erupted between two siblings that were in choir, over who knows what. "Okay," I sighed after shushing them, "let's sing it together this time..."
Finally, though I had made a rookie mistake of assuming they knew this song which they were going to be singing in two weeks with only ONE more practice between now and then, they learned it fairly well this despite the boys complaining it was either too high or too low for them to sing. Yes, my choir included 8th grade boys who voices are changing and between all five them not a one was singing the same note.
Moving on to a song I knew they were familiar with because they used to sing it with our pastor at Mass every week, I got them started when there was a knock at the door and one of the teachers was motioning to me. "Who do you need?" I called over their voices thinking somebody's ride must have come early. "You!" she answered.
"Keep singing!" I called out, hurrying over wondering what emergency made her show up at the door. "I thought it would be a wonderful idea if the choir could sing the National Anthem at our Homecoming game," she told me. "Umm, well sure, when is that?"
Okay...the stakes were getting higher...singing for Mass and now singing for the National Anthem both in two weeks. I hurried back up to the front of the kids only to see one of the 5th grade boys had taken my spot on the podium giggling and making faces at everyone. "Down!" I ordered, and got them to start them over on the round again.
"Mrs Simmons, how do the arm motions go on this song?" One of the 8th graders asked. Putting down my guitar I moved my arms up, down and around which elicited a round of laughter from the siblings again. This is why teachers have seating charts I reminded myself. Finally remembering the motions, the words and the tune, we began again. Okay, I thought, that wasn't too bad, I glanced at the clock and time was already up. I ended with the spiel of meeting again next week, how we only had that one practice to get the song we were singing in our heads, reminding them they had to be quiet when sitting in church in the choir loft, that we were already getting requests to sing for other things when one of 4th grade girls raised her hand. Expecting a question about what I had already discussed, I said, "Yes, Caylie?"
"Mrs...what's your name again?"
"Oh yeah, Mrs. Simmons, are we going to have choir next year?"
"Depends on if we survive the next two weeks Caylie..." I sighed. "Class dismissed!"