Atonal, Arrhythmic, Aaaaaaaaa!
This morning, as I was about to leave the house for work, my wife Janet said those words which have struck terror in men throughout the ages: "Hon, don’t forget, tonight is Dagny’s school concert." These words can reduce the bravest of men to a quivering mass of tears, especially if that man has a daughter, and her name is Dagny, and she is in the second grade.
Let me start out by admitting something few parents will admit to: No one likes a school concert that involves people of an age such that they only comparatively recently learned to dress themselves for school without ending up wearing a pajama bottom and the top of their "Power Puff Girls" costume from the previous Halloween. I always bring the camcorder to tape these events. My step-daughter thinks it’s because the concert will be so wonderful, and I don’t correct her, but the truth is that I tape it so that when she’s a teenager and is yelling that I never loved her, I can sit her down and show her what I sat through just to make her happy. A greater act of love there never was. That, and I’ve seen how many people on that home video show have won money with videos of similar events.
This evening was actually a double-fun night, because we first had to attend the dreaded Parent Teacher Conference with Dagny’s teacher, Mrs. Wallace. Mrs. Wallace is a nice enough lady, with the super-human ability to spend 7 hours, five days a week with a class full of Dagnys. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love my 8 year old step daughter, but a couple of hours in the evening can be enough to make me long for the comparative peace and quiet of a building demolition. (In the interest of fairness (and because one day she’ll learn to read), I should say I also love my other step daughter (her sister).).
The thing is, this was my first ever Parent Teacher conference. My biological son and daughter (whom I also love, although obviously there isn’t the same natural connection) were taken away from me by my ex-wife(*) and moved across the country when my son had just started Kindergarten, so I’ve never really had the opportunity before. When I was a child, in school, and my parents would talk about conference night, I always imagined a formal affair, of great pith and moment, where great deeds were done and great topics debated. After all, this was Mommy & Daddy and my teacher, clearly the most important Adults in the whole world! What a let-down to find out that it’s really a 15 minute chat, pretty much just comparing notes with the teacher to make sure we were all on the same page with respect to Dagny’s development.
Anyway, when the conference was over, we just had time to run home, grab a quick bite of dinner, and then head back to the school for the concert. This was NOT my first school concert, I’d actually attended a Christmas concert when my son was in Kindergarten (just before they left) and another with Dagny’s class this past December, but there was something different this time. I’d had a migraine all day, so for once I had the headache when I walked INTO the gymnasium.
The concert began with the hand bell ringers performing an unrecognizable and oddly-rhythmed rendition of "Scarborough Faire", and I distinctly heard "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary....". They had trouble keeping Thyme, however.
The peal of the bells had scarcely stopped echoing between the cement of the gym ceiling and the metal of the oh-so-comfortable chairs when the second performance, "A Horse With No Name" began, performed by the guitar club. Unlike the previous song, this one’s melody was actually recognizable, largely because it consists of two notes, which were played more or less at random by one of the players, while the rest played backing music consisting of one chord, strummed three times per measure. In the interest of fairness (and because one of my co-workers’ daughters was playing the lead guitar), the melody was actually fairly well done, especially considering it was played by a girl who was only slightly larger than the guitar she was playing.
When this song was over, the Kindergarten, First and Second grade children performed their two numbers, starting with the theme to a popular cartoon involving an absorbent title character with geometric slacks. The arrangement was such that one half of the group sang the words and the other half chanted out the name of the show, so that my step daughter had, for this number, the daunting task of memorizing four words. Alphabetically, "Bob", "Pants", "Sponge" and "Square".
The second number was titled "Music Explosion", a song I had never heard before (I don’t think, although sometimes even when I recognize the title, it’s hard to recognize the song). I can say that it was aptly named, except for the first word.
When this was over, the school chorus took the stage (and by "took the stage", I mean stood there while the K, 1 & 2 children sat down in front of them in a well choreographed simultaneous motion taking only 20 seconds or so) to perform their numbers. My daughter is not in the chorus, but we always try to teach the children to be polite to performers, whether you know them or like their performance or not, and so of course I can’t remember most of the songs that they performed.
I do know that they started out with a medley of hits by that classic artist from way back (2003) Avril Lavigne. It was a medley only in so far as they didn’t pause between the end of "Sk8ter Boi" and the start of "Complicated". And as an almost-40 year old man, I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually knew the spelling of "Sk8ter Boi" without looking it up (I also knew all the words, but as my youngest daughter has spent roughly 1000 hours singing this song around the house since they moved in back in November, this isn’t surprising).
All in all, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, one of the better school concerts I’ve attended. And just in case I missed any of the subtle nuances, I can always watch the tape.
(* In earlier versions of this, I referred to "my evil ex-wife", but
- she’s not really evil
- she’s my kids’ mother
- she reads this.
Plus, I think she LIKES me thinking of her as evil, and so of course that kind of defeats the purpose.)
Copyright (c) April 12, 2005 by Liam Johnson. http://www.liamjohnson.net