Last night was the farewell concert of the elementary school music teacher and chorus leader. She has taught in this town for 33 years. She was my piano teacher for a couple of years, and I was in a smaller "concert choir" she put together as her Masters thesis project in 1980-81.
When I do musical programs and projects at my children's parochial school, or I go to their Christmas concert and see the 11 children in the 4th-8th grade chorus, belting in unnecessarily loud and totally untrained voices to the accompaniment of an electronic keyboard, I am sickened and infuriated. Lately I had begun to say to myself, "Well, obviously your expectations are unreasonable."
And then I went to S.H.'s concert last night. Her chorus was composed of approximately 100 3rd and 4th graders. Assuming the town and school population has stayed pretty much the same over the years--and it's not like there was a lot of space left to build on--that means half of each grade is in Chorus. Their plaintive little voices sounded beautiful and appropriate. They moved and did gestures to go with their songs. A real pianist played a real piano.
So either my expectations are not unreasonable or S.H. is an exceptional teacher. I guess both.
S.H. had chosen some of her favorite songs she had done over the years. Among them were:
Over The Rainbow (she is originally from Kansas)
Getting To Know You (she sang the intro and the children joined on the chorus)
Why Am I Me from "Shenandoah", featuring two male duetists and their older brothers who had done the duet a few years ago
Sing...which was one of the songs that our group of alumni had chosen to do. It actually worked out beautifully. After what S.H. thought was the last song in the program, the principal introduced the alumni and we walked out. A group of younger alumni sang a 4-part version of "Irish Blessing" that they had actually rehearsed.
We then sang "Let There Be Peace On Earth," with which S.H. ended every town tree lighting ceremony. I had suggested it because I remember her directing arms waving wildly and her voice exhorting us, "Make your mothers cry!" She had held it together until then, but completely dissolved at this point.
Then we sang what turned out to be a reprise of "Sing" along with the current chorus, and the band teacher beckoned S.H. over to conduct. So few things ever feel absolutely perfect, but this did.
Sometimes I feel like I'm the last person on earth who cares about music, but last night renewed my faith a bit.