It’s all a bit hectic at the moment.
Our School Nativity is due to take place in the village church at the end of this week, and we are only now getting stuck into the “Real Rehearsals”. We’ve been learning the songs for several weeks, and that is going fairly well.
Yesterday was the first “everyone together” run-through in the church, more to scope out the amount that needs to be done than to achieve any semblance of a performance. One hundred children were crocodiled up to the church through the dank drizzle, herded into pews, and off we went.
I was sitting in the choir stalls with my eighteen-strong percussion band, trying to play a keyboard balanced across my knees and at the same time organise my willing, excited, but as yet untrained musicians.
What we discovered;
Eighteen children do not fit into the choir stalls, which would probably be spacious for maybe a dozen adults. They can’t overflow into the aisles, as these eventually become filled with bemused and uncomprehending infants, being stars, or Mary and Joseph, or animals, or Kings… “Miss, I’m squashed”.
The children don’t know the opening song well enough yet to be able to sing in two parts. It is quite a simple idea; the first verse has a “low” tune, the second verse has a “high” tune, and then you sing both verses at the same time. Or not… The chime bar accompaniment (a simple two-note choice of “Dong” or “Ding” on the beat sounds like a random assortment of chime-bar-like sounds happening at disconnected moments through the song. There’s a bit of work needed here, I think!
If your reed is not correctly aligned with the mouthpiece of your saxophone, you will make no sound at all when you try and play the chorus of “We Three Kings”. Anguished whisper from boy; “Miss, it won’t work”. Unhelpful response from me; “Sorry, I can’t stop now,” as I try to play the music, balance the keyboard and speak all at the same time. They keyboard stayed in place, the tune didn’t quite. “I’ll sort it out afterwards”. He’s a resilient lad for such a youngster. He’ll get another chance tomorrow.
If the three children playing the djembe for “See him lying on a bed of straw” don’t pick up the “See him lie” rhythm straightaway, the carol will sound increasingly drunk for the next four verses, until the children give up trying to sing in time at all…
If you don’t bring up the CD player and CD, or music for “No room at the Inn”, then “No room at the Inn” Just might not happen. But, amazingly it did – I called out, in a voice of command “I, 2, 3” and the song was launched! Even more, about seventy percent of the children sang the key change for the last verse!
Some of the children, left to their own devices while I try and play the keyboard without dropping it, giggle and wriggle and whisper and tap each other rather than the chime bars. Maybe that’s the explanation for the wayward accompaniments to the carols and songs? That is probably the answer for the cymbals getting a bash at the wrong moment too. “ON the word STAR, please”. Hmm.
Once I had rearranged the children, with much hissing of instructions and whispers of “Disgraceful Behaviour” and “I explained my expectations” – note the sibilance of those phrases – my band behaved immaculately. Unbelievably, no-one dropped a cymbal, rattled their jingles or played any more giggling games – oh, how my heart filled with pride!
Back to school through, drizzle-turned-to-rain, to work out how to solve the various little snags that cropped up through the afternoon. At least I don’t have to teach the infants what their moves are, or ensure that the speakers know their cues to come in at the right time and project their voices.
We’ve ages and ages – three more days (filled with Christmas Lunches and class parties and other extravaganzas) to get it all sorted out.
No problem at all….