torsdag, maj 12, 2005

Hamburg High School Concert Chorale taking the gold and earning Outstanding Overall in Toronto. Copyright C.Berlin 2005

Last year it was New York. I drove down to the City on a last minute sense of "my daughter is singing in Carnegie Hall and how could I ever explain not seeing it." I hid my Zeiss lens-camera from the security folks, and afterwards slipped backstage to hug and kiss and to be able to say that I snuck backstage. I drove home that night, sleeping for seconds in the rest areas along Route 17. This year it was Toronto.

My two youngest came with me, the very youngest throwing up along the way in an oddball collection of plastic grocery bags. I contemplated not going, but there are values associated with different events, and a once a year invitational versus the flu was a no brainer. The performance hall was only half full, and those who were there were primarily the other students in the competition. The place would have been packed with parents if this had been a basketball game. The signs on the theater/theatre doors said "absolutely no cameras." Too bad. These kids need some attention, so I turned off the flash and scoped the room. Facing the stage was a row of judges. They were all men, outfitted with notepads, desk lamps, and dictaphones.

The singing was incredible. Directors seemed to select songs for their degree of difficulty, and the vocalists often performed in bare-naked acapella. After each performance, a judge descended on the group to critique.

The criticism was harsh. "You know the Beatles' song," began one judge, "the one about taking me half the way there? That is how you made me feel." He added that he believed the students were wonderfully talented, but I knew what those kids' ears would remember, and they would hate any reference to the Beatles for a long time. The judges were like this with each school. I was uncomfortable.

By the time my daughter's school performs, I have no idea if the music is good or bad. What these judges discuss is foreign to me. I am out of my field, stuck in a place where even bad metaphors escape me. So I move from empty seat to empty seat taking photos of the performance. At one point I sit amongst some kids from another school, and watch them look at each other with startled expressions in reaction to whatever the singers are belting out. It sounds kind of cool to me, but what do I know.

Then the judge came down, stood next to the director and said, "I have nothing to offer. You are wonderful."

I felt throat-closing proud until a second wave came over me. There were 80 kids on stage getting laurels. There were six parents there to witness.

I know that for a lot of the kids, getting away from home and singing is part of the fun of competition. I am wondering, however, if every student feels this way, and if there are some families who never get a solid on the level at which their son or daughter competes, on what, exactly, has just been accomplished.
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