There are some events that are so unbelievable you have to have been in the attendance to know for sure that they really did happen. As luck would have I was blessed with the opportunity to attend what, turned out to be, one of the most extraordinary elementary school choir events to ever take place.
My daughter's school was honored with an invitation from our state music teachers association to sing at their annual convention. Tuesday night was their "practice performance." In a small local chapel. The voices of young singers filled the beautiful space with that glorious sound only a child can produce. And then, in the middle of the second song a young girl on the top risers began to stir. It looked as if she was going to sit down, but she fainted and fell backwards instead. Parents rushed the stage. A physician and neurologist were in the audience and soon determined that the girl was fine. Nervous, she had locked her knees and lost circulation.
You could read the worry on the faces of the young children. The sight of a fainting child is not old hat to 10 and 11 year olds. They began to bend their knees in earnest. Afraid that they might fall victim to this syndrome. It was in the middle of the third song that a young boy bent his knees, perhaps just a tad too emphatically because he lost his balance and fell into the two girls behind him and busted open his lip. With blood now shed the director instructed all the children to sit down while the young man was taken to safety.
The school counselor was in the audience and took this break in the action to talk with the children. Explain that there was nothing inherently dangerous about standing on risers and singing to their parents and school teachers. They could carry one with no further instances. It would be alright. If they felt nervous though, the children were asked to go and sit with their mom and dad.
I'm not sure if the young girl in the middle of the front row had been feeling ill all night or if the added sight of blood had done something to her stomach. Whatever the case, in the third movement of the fifth and final song the young girl threw up all over the director. At that point it was decided that there was little point in finishing. They were so close to the end and at any rate, the chapel was begging to smell. The mother of the projectile vomiter collected her daughter, the choir was dismissed and the director headed for the nearest restroom while the principle took the microphone to assure the remaining parents their children were in safe hands. This was not typical of elementary school choir events. And she was right. It wasn't typical. You go to these things to be reminded of the simple beauty of innocence that can only be found in the voices of children.
But that night innocence was lost. Our children were reminded of their mortality. They were made aware of the hidden violence in the coral business. When they arrived at the convention on Thursday they were nervous. The ballroom they would be singing in was full. Standing room only. The first group to perform was an honor choir from a northern district. They were dressed in matching uniforms and cheesy smiles were plastered on their faces. Their music was all up beat jazz numbers and spirituals. They were new and shinny and proud to be on stage, wowing the crowd.
When our children climbed onto the rises they looked like sickly hospital patience. A collective gray bundle of nerves they all looked ready to simultaneously collapse and catch anyone who may decided to collapse around them. They sang their slow melodic songs with a new found depth of wisdom that can only come from experience. They finished the last song without incident and breathed a long sigh of relief. It was over. They had survived. They could return to yelling and chasing and jumping and whining like the brats that they are.