Wednesday, April 15, 2009
On Friday night, April 17, 210 students of the Tufts Third Day Gospel Choir will converge on stage in Cohen Auditorium at Tufts University for their Spring Concert which is themed "Stop. Look. Listen." Everytime I stand in front of this group, I am blessed to see the many different faces from many different places now occupying the same spaces, and being exactly what the human race is. (I'm Funkyman . . . I rhyme.) Some wear braces. (I'll stop now.)
We meet once a week in a Concert Hall, where I have to stand on stage while they sit in the audience, because it wouldn't work the other way around. You might think a choir that size has the potential for enormous sound and power. You'd be right. Of course the catch is, in a choir that size, it's easy to not give your all when there are 90 other altos there to sing your part. (You know I love you altos!) Therefore, my job as the director is to coach them into giving their all when seemingly 50% would be OK. We don't want OK. We want SYNERGY. Truly a waste is when those traces won't happen without focus and energy stasis. (Still rhyming baby! I'm so done now!)
In order to direct any choir for 2 hours or more, you have to be a storyteller, comedian, preacher, and politician (the good listening kind). Here are some of my favorite choir director moments - some funny, some embarrasing.
I often use metaphors to get the choir to sing out more. Most recently, I told Tufts gospel choir I would be on fire to encourage them.
Bring lots of water, because I will be on FIRE.
Bring asbestos shirts, because I will be on FIRE.
Bring marshmallows and a stick, because I will be on FIRE.
STOP, DROP, AND ROLL, because . . . you get the point.
I have to stop typing now, because my keys are melting from the FIRE.
When I got to rehearsal that Friday, some students came up to me on stage to deliver two large bottles of Poland Spring and a bag of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows. I laughed my head off. And yes, for that concert, they brought the FIRE! Face This! (HA!)
Here's a video clip of our concert from April 2008.
I love puns. Sometimes they just come out of my mouth without forethought. Once I was passing out lyric sheets to a new song in a gospel choir rehearsal, and I asked does anyone need one?
A student said, "We need two more."
I said, "No, that's cancer."
Dead silence. "Tu-mor." Get it?
One of the few awkward silences I've had to live through. ALLLLLL RIIGGHHTYYYY THHHHEENNNNN!
Thank God for their GRACES. (And it won't stop!)
I was a new teacher at school and I had my first choir rehearsal. They didn't know me at all. I came in the middle of the school year, and they were quite used to their old director. Therefore, to separate myself from the old director, I decided to do something few teachers would dare to do even after years of employment. I RAPPED!
No not a complex freestyle or a full song even. No, I had Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique in my head that day, and this was totally unplanned. While I began class and did attendance, I told everybody that I would call their name like this:
"David Coleman's in the house - Whatcha gon' do?"
And they were to respond simply - "I go AWOLLLLLLLLL!"
So I'm up there like - "Matt Beach is in the house, whatcha gon' do?"
Matt says - "Uh, present?"
I didn't let it phase me - "Olivia Charles is in the place, whatcha gon' do?"
Olivia says - "Here."
I can't let these kids see me sweat. I go through the entire choir - about 40 names. And then, like at the end of the roster, my hero saved me.
"Hillary Wyon's in the house, whatcha gon' do?"
And Hillary said - "I go AWOLLLLLLLLLL!"
YES! Everyone looked at her, and she's like - "Come on, this is cool."
And so it was. One person made a difference, not just in the minds of her classmates, but for her teacher, whom she didn't even know.
Thanks, Hillary. My coolness is still in tact. You can't PHASE THIS! (ONE MORE!)
I often describe gospel concerts as parties. They are supposed to be a celebration of life, each other, and the Creator. Therefore, in order to make students make that connection, I tried to get them to have fun in rehearsals, calling out and encouraging each other to sing and have a good time. Of course, some parties are NOT holy.
In my first semester at Tufts as the director, I had one student, bless his heart to get a little too excited. Here we were singing about God and how we should praise Him, and he's like "HEELLLL YEAHHHH!"
Needless to say the ensuing laughter was pretty much the end of rehearsal that day.
Yes it was hilarious, but for a concert, we couldn't in good conscience DISPLAY THIS!
OK, I'll try to explain this quickly.
1. At Dana Hall, the select choir is called the "Chamber Singers."
2. We once did a double-chorus piece called "The Echo Song", where we jokingly called one group the "Chamber Singers" and the other the "Fake Chamber Singers" as they were always only the echo of the first group. This group lovingly became know as the "Famber Singers" for short.
3. At the end of the school year, we decided to have a social event which ended up being a Barbeque.
4. The Chamber Singers Barbeque became the Charbeque for short.
5. As a joke we referred to the event as the Farbeque anytime we accidentally gave out the wrong information - day, time, what to bring, etc.
6. The Barbeque was around the same time as Commencement and the prerequisite Baccalaureate.
7. The combined events became the Charbalaureate, or as we preferred to joke and say, the "Farbalaureate."
Now you know the derivation of this completely meaningless word. No, this story doesn't have anything to do with choir singing or making connections as a director per se, You have truly gone neck deep into the world of
- Funkymazes (OH!)