Monday, December 14, 2009

Things I learned on Sunday

Sunday was the first of the Christmas concerts with the Kids singing "Snowflake Serenade" at the beginning of the music service recital. The concert was in Christchurch about a five minute walk from Gloucester road. (I think I have found where I want to live when I have buckets and buckets of money- there is a mews behind the church that is full of charming and cute little houses with large planters and pots outside just about every door and climbing plants growing up the fronts of the buildings. It was just beautiful; especially as since it is Christmas time the whole road was lit up with fairy lights as well.) The church was lovely but very cold. All the teachers got there at 1pm to have a staff meeting before the students started trailing in to practice with their accompanists.

The meeting was a little bit silly- it is a new organization and while things are generally going well there is more that the org would like to do and expand upon- which is all well and good. A chamber music programme *would* be a great addition to the offerings, as would composition workshops. Absolutely.

But here's the thing- one of the things that I learned during my IPE rehearsals this summer was that if I was prepared with a number of possible ideas for how a portion of the piece could go then things went swimmingly- even if the devising process left my ideas in the dust. The important part was to have an *idea* of a solution (if, as the director, I couldn't think of a way to make it work, isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that other people are going to take the problem and run with it? Okay- sometimes that was exactly what was needed because I was beating my head against a brick wall and needed help- but that's not what I'm talking about- this is more at the beginning of the process.)

For instance say I wanted a story to be told through a piece of music. And presented it to my group exactly like that: "hey guys! Lets put a story to music! So...what story do you want to do?" It's awfully open ended, and totally not helpful. They may completely agree with me that putting a story to music is brilliant, what a fabulous idea! But I, as director, am going to need to put a little bit more in to it. A lot more in to it. "Hey, lets try little red riding hood with the oboe as the main character- do you think we could have a recurring bassoon part for the wolf? Maybe based a little bit on the wolf theme from Peter and the Wolf and oh! Hey! Maybe we could do a whole concert of pieces based on stories with wolves and use that as our common thread through the whole evening...." etc.

Yeah, a chamber music program is a great idea, but during this meeting we're not going to be able to organize that and figure out all the logistics and think of who should play with who and blah blah blah.

Here's how, in retrospect, I would have run that portion of the meeting (oh, it dragged on so!):

"We think a chamber music option would be great to have at the school- any first thoughts?"
(five minutes of discussion)
"So it sounds like using the students current lesson times isn't going to work for a number of reasons including disrupting already short lesson times, matching up groups of the same level who are having lessons at the same time, and figuring out how the payment works. What about if we tried having chamber music taster sessions to see if the students and parents are interested?"
(five minutes of discussion)
"Am I correct in understanding that most of you think Sunday would be a good day to do this? Is there anyone who is particularly interested or particularly not interested in joining in with this idea/plan?"
(raised hands or around the circle- 2 minutes)
"Wonderful then the four of us who are gung ho- lets be in touch via email about specific dates. Next on the agenda is..."h

See? streamlined! Repeating and clarifying the key points! Creating a sub-committee!

Anyhow- this morning I wrote a list of "things that I have learned about Kid's Christmas Recitals"

1. If it is in a church, dress you child in a turtleneck. Old stone churches are hard to heat and they get *cold.*
2. Kids in choirs are cute. Kids in choirs with over sized Santa hats are cuter still!
3. Treats and tastiness are a great idea for the interval. (And children drink mulled wine in the UK? Isn't it...alcoholic? I guess the cooking takes care of that?)
4. Two hours is far too long for a children's recital.
5. Sketch books are useful for keeping multiple teachers/tutors entertained
6. Question: is it alright to tell of other people's children when a: the child is noisily and repetitively interrupting the concert and b: the parent is doing nothing about it?
7. For those of you who ever messed up in a recital: no one minds- we're all just so proud of you for even getting up there.

It was really nice to spend some time with the rest of the tutors. They are all lovely people and since we never have a chance really to speak while we're teaching- it was particularly nice to get a chance to just hang out a little bit.

One of my favorite Kids is moving back to France after Christmas so this week is the last time I get to see him. Fortunately his parents and two little sisters were helping out with the treats and tastiness so I was able to spend a bunch of time talking to them as well. It was a bit of a mutual appreciation society: "Oh! M. just loves your class! Talks about it all the time!" "Well M. is such a good singer and he catches on to concepts so quickly! He concentrates hard and he's a joy to have in class, I'll miss him!" etc.

All in all a good experience.

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