Sunday, November 18, 2007

What is it that we're living for?

Applause, applause!

The Boy had his stage debut today. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

He woke at 4:30AM this morning. The Wife took care of him completely, as I had a slightly longer day than her on Sunday; he had slept since around midnight. They wound up leaving the house at around 6:30AM; there was a pancake breakfast at her school, and then she'd be heading north to our mutual concert. On Sunday mornings, I sing with an Episcopalian church choir in northern Jersey; this makes it difficult to watch him, so she kind of has him by default.

The first sound check was The Wife's quartet, at noon. The bass singer in her quartet had a 102-degree temperature; the baritone singer lost most of her voice the previous night. The sound check went fine, except for the sound guy arriving 15 minutes late; no worries. I took care of the baby while she was on stage, which allowed me to introduce him to a lot of other people that he hasn't met yet. She took him while I warmed up / sang with my two choruses. No problem, really - he slept through most of my time with him, considering he had just finished a 90 minute car ride. (The car puts him out as thoroughly as any medication imaginable.)

When it was the time for her quartet to sing with my chorus, The Boy was screaming his head off. He was wet (with cloth diapers, which is even more uncomfortable that you can imagine) AND starving, having just woken up from his nap. The show must go on... one of the guys from Reveille (a great quartet) walked him around until we were done, then she fed him and I changed him.

When her quartet was on (30 minutes later), I walked him around; no problems. A little bit of squawking, but that was just pre-nap fussing. Gave him back to her when she was done, sound asleep.

The end of the concert is a song sung by everybody called "Keep The Whole World Singing," and all performing quartets are invited out to sing. So, out she came - with The Boy! It was nice to hold him while 125 guys (and 4 ladies) sang this song. So, he made his debut in front of an audience of hundreds of people!

Since his birth, we've sung a song to him as a lullaby called "The Story of the Rose." This is a beautiful, simple tune expressing deep feelings of love; while the chorus is traditionally interpreted as being between two lovers, it is very easy to interpret that into parental love. We've both sung the song to The Boy - both separately and together - hundreds of times since he was born. At the afterglow, The Wife and I sung the quartet arrangement of that with two buddies of mine; he had been fussy and flailing about. When he heard the tune, sung in quartet form, he immediately quieted and laid his head on my chest and listened. It was a wonderful little moment that I believe will stay with me for a long time.

I wonder when the appropriate time is to bring a child onto the stage for a real performance. (Being held by Daddy / Mommy does not constitute a performance, really. That's fun for the parents and can be rewarding or terrifying or both for the child.) We've all heard the stories of the child actors that have come to terrible ends - look at the cast of "Dif'rent Strokes," for crying out loud. Burnout, drugs, alcohol, sex... they're all terrible things. I know of quite a few musical prodigies that burnt out long before their peak, and I know of many child gymnasts or skaters that burnt out before their 12th birthday.

I suppose the correct answer is, when he asks for it. If he wants to learn the songs and to sing with the chorus, then so be it. When he's ready to come on stage, then he will. If he expresses no interest in singing with the chorus, then he won't do it.

My son will play a musical instrument. That's a given. He will learn to read music efficiently and effectively, and he will learn basic musical interpretation. Those are not options; they are of hyper importance to the life of the parents, and thus they will be passed on to the child. These are skills that are helpful and rewarding to have, whether he follows his parents into music education or chooses a different career path. I'm undecided about when he should start piano lessons, and I'm undecided about when he should start playing an instrument - should he start Suzuki violin / viola / cello at 3 or 4 years old, or play piano until 4th grade, when he can start a wind instrument?

Not a decision we need to make right now; as far as I'm concerned, he can sing with my chorus as soon as he can #1: stand and #2: speak / sing words clearly. Once those two milestones are reached, then he has the potential to sing music publicly, and that's when he can join.

(Yes, I know that young children have little to no pitch-matching ability, and little to no vocal range; but those things are flexible. I've heard REALLY little kids sing the Star Spangled Banner clearly and in tune, and that has an octave and a half range, which is HUGE.)

(Another side note: not the first time he's been on stage with The Wife's quartet. As a matter of fact, he was with her during her quartet's performance at the Sweet Adeline's quartet competition last April - the only male on stage. He was in utero, but he was still there.)

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