My first mid-apocalypse blog! How exciting.
Are you keeping safe? I hope you’re not reading this over your friend’s shoulder, sat on an over-crowded park bench, or within a roaring crowd in a supermarket fighting over the last egg. That’d be quite an impractical situation to be reading in anyway.
My girlfriend, Rosie, is a teacher. And a brilliant one at that. Last week was the most heartbreaking she’ll (hopefully) ever experience in her career. The schools being shut down was, undoubtably, the right thing to do for the health of our nation, as it has been around the world. However, within that moment, the years and years of hard work put in by the students, the teachers, and the supportive parents all went down the drain. No exams. No coursework. No clear future.
The oldest kids, in their last year of school, discovered one Thursday morning, that that would be their last EVER day of school.
Rosie immediately leapt in to action. The kids and her staff were all taught how to use online apps and facilities to keep up as much teaching as possible. Morning roll-call, Classroom lessons, one-on-one instrumental and singing tuition transferred within hours to happening online! Some sense of normality had been saved! It seems like a miracle, almost.
I say almost, as Rosie has also decided to use some of her time at home to teach herself the clarinet. Where did I leave my noise-cancelling headphones?!
The continuing of teaching in some small way is so important. Children across the country, and the world, have had their purpose and drive in life yanked from under their feet. To be provided a solid structure to their days and maintain connection with a non-parental pastoral figure will give them immeasurable comfort at this bizarre, upside-down time.
Amazingly all of her students have been checking in every day online! Coming to online lessons, and joining in all the crazy music games and stuff that she’s come up with for them.
On a King’s Singers related note, it reminded me of our latest US tour. We had a load of workshops during that 3 week trip with some phenomenal choirs across the States. Almost all of them were school or college choirs, which I think I prefer working with the most, as many of the members won’t know or much care who we are or what we do. It’s our job to, often in limited time, inspire in them a life-long love of singing! It’s quite a hilariously huge challenge, but so much fun to try. It obviously doesn’t always work, but just a few people going away with a brighter glint in their eyes is worth the effort.
An aspect of working with teenage choirs that thrills me most is encouraging them, especially the boys, to sing with emotion! Life is odd when you’re a teenager, and trying to carefully curate your outward appearance to the world is a large part of the defence mechanism they employ. When you’re singing with emotional intention that mechanism has to come down. Unsure of your appearance, you feel powerless and vulnerable. From an audience’s point of view, the total opposite is true. Watching someone singing expressively, the audience sees a confidence, and an ease with ones self that is as powerful as it is impressive.
This was all so exciting to witness in the choirs in the US last month. I’m itching to get back on the road, sing more concerts, and work with more great singers, young and old.
Before I leave, this all reminds me of a chat I had with two choristers from the Choir of St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the concert all the boys had been peering over the balcony watching the show, and after I asked two of them what their favourite songs were. One said “I liked the one with the kazoos” (fair enough) and the other said “I loved the Orlandus Lassus”. Job done!
Keep safe and healthy, keep singing, keep smiling. Normal service will resume shortly.
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