Thursday, May 12, 2016

Alice the Camel

No, I did not visit the camel farm this week, nor did I adopt one, or even ride one. On the contrary - I spent more time than ever with the littlies because I finally was given the all clear to start my choirs. This term the Early Years after school programme started, and that included my choir, which runs every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1.10-2.10pm. It doesn't sound like much time, just an hour, but trust me - neither party could handle much more. The kids are over it by the end, and I'm hoarse from singing children's songs, talking, laughing and occasionally, disciplinary action. Not to mention, I'm sweaty from all the action songs. It has been a great success so far, particularly today. Earlier in the week I had dwindling numbers, between 2-4 children each day, which was quite disheartening. On Thursday though, I had 10 students! I could actually call that a choir-sized amount.

I think the idea is that I teach these three choirs, with students aged between 3-6 years old, the same songs (it feels wrong to refer to "Baby Beluga", "We're Going to the Zoo" and "Ballin' the Jack" as repertoire) and combine as one big choir for an end of term performance for the parents. What I've enjoyed about it so far is how much fun it can be when you just kind of wing it.* I'm having fun going all out in a kindergarten classroom, singing silly songs with silly dance moves with a bunch of four year olds. It's cool getting to know their personalities and giving "leadership opportunities" to the bolder ones ('how about you start the verse, Santiago' and 'what animal shall we be next, Abdullah?'). What I initially failed at and had to learn from is how little their minds can retain in terms of lyrics. Songs have to be as repetitive, simple, and physical as possible. The more actions, the better, because it keeps them engaged and helps them make meaning out of the music. When I started gathering music for them, the things I thought would be easy peasy had to be simplified even further, or scrapped entirely, because I realised they just weren't going to work for this age group.

It is fairly limiting to have a choir of such a young age group, but I do really enjoy working with the little ones all the same. You just have to get creative. I stumbled across all my nostalgic childhood Love to Sing albums online and just thought: this is perfect. Consequently, Alice the Camel has become a class favourite. It's really both comforting and refreshing to teach such familiar and memorable music during my formative years to kids about the same age as I was when I lived and breathed the stuff. It sends memories flooding back of dancing around with lil' Erin in our front room - before broadband internet, iPhones, ahhh... yesteryear. (Just wanted a way to incorporate the word yesteryear to appear extra douchey.) Mind you, I am 89% sure our copy of Love to Sing and Dance was a cassette tape. That's right. Some pre-historic shit right there.

for Sophie, or anyone else reading this born after 2000

So far, this blog post is making me feel ancient, and I'm not even old. At all. In fact, I'm still in that fleeting stage of life where I get pissed off when people comment on how young I look/act/sound/dress. Shut the fuc front door. Please and thank you. Don't these people realise how infuriating it felt when they were my age and being told the exact same things? Treat me like an adult, and I promise that I will rise to the challenge... of faking my way through.

Abrupt digression: my class were doing a worksheet about where we come from versus where we live now (Bahrain, obviously). One kid, who is from Syria, identified the Saudi Arabian flag as his own - presumably because he has been told that is his nationality. He was absolutely convinced he was born there. That makes you wonder, do the parents lie out of shame? Fear? To protect him? It's pretty stuffed up if you think about it. But surely they have their reasons.

Recalibration: I can't even remember if I mentioned this in my last blog post, but I'm too lazy to check - I started going to a new choir I found (as a participant) and got offered a solo part off the bat. Possibly two? Probably all the other sopranos hate me now, but yolo. We're mainly doing cheesy pop songs and power ballads, but that's fine by me. Better than no choir at all.

*and wing it I very well had to when I turned up to school on Sunday only to be informed that morning that I was to start my first choir rehearsal after school that very same day. Ahem.

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