Okay, this isn't a showtune. But I don't have a category for just cool songs. We're working on this song in one of my classes. I always feel so happy and uplifted whenever we work on it. I thought I'd pass it on.
We interrupt the ongoing celebration of Christmas, hard-hitting social commentary, keen insights into adolescents, and shameless self-promotion that form the normal work of this blog to post something that we just really like a lot.
We here at bradenbell.com are inveterate, confirmed Anglophiles. We love all things English--everything from country lanes to St. George, Shakespeare, and Queen Elizabeth. We are quite sure, that in some former life, we were best friends with Winston Churchill and Sherlock Holmes.
This, of course, makes us look on all things French with a certain amount of suspicion. Still, when it comes to a dispute between the Nazi Jerrys and the Frogs, we will quickly don our beret and shout, "Vive La France!"
To be fair, the French have probably the coolest national anthem in the world (although we choke up every time we hear "The Star-Spangled Banner." We find that if we are ever afraid or need to muster up fighting spirit, singing "La Marseillaise" is a supreme tonic.
This film clip is one of our favorite scenes from one of our favorite movies--Casablanca. The Nazis are insinuating themselves into French Morocco and come to Rick's nightclub where they disturb the peace by singing their noxious German anthems. Not to fear! A Resistance leader is on hand and he leads the patrons in a wonderful musical smackdown. This gives me chills every time.
One of the funnest (I know it should be "most fun" but that sound stuffy to me) things I've ever done was performing with the Nashville Symphony. They do these children's concerts through the year, and for several years, I was the narrator, led the sing-a-long and so forth. So much fun! The first time I did it, is one of my favorite holiday memories. I welcomed everyone and introduced the first number.
I remember sitting on the stage, looking out at the crowd while this marvelous orchestra played their first piece. I got chills and a little teary--it was just so exciting.
Since then, I've cherished that memory and loved the song. It's an arrangement of many well-known Christmas songs. It's played here by the Boston Pops and is simply magnificent. The visuals are a little cheesy, but the music is superb. Listen especially towards the end when the trombones come in on "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" under "Jingle Bells." If it doesn't get you excited about Christmas, then something is wrong with you, I fear. The visuals are a little cheesy, but just listen to the music and don't look at them.
Okay, full disclosure: to be perfectly honest, there are times when my students are unruly and squirrely and make me want to pull my hair out, slit my wrists, or become a bagger at Kroger. Not many times, but they do exist. I say that simply to balance out the glowing, gushing post that follows.
A few weeks back, I wrote a post about things that make my soul sing. As I work to become a more grateful, loving person, I'm trying to make it a point to more frequently savor and enjoy the good things about my life, so I wanted to post some more of the things that bring me such joy that my soul begins to sing. On Friday, I left work feeling this way, feeling happy and satisfied because of my students.
These quirky, wonderful little people are straddling the two worlds of childhood and adulthood. Even the oldest among them is little more than a very large child, while even the youngest are inexorably hurtling to maturity. I think it is the confluence of youth and maturity that I enjoy so much about adolescents. They are young enough to be rather sweet still, innocent, even, but they are old enough to be able to do sophisticated work, to have well-developed senses of humor and so on.
Friday, my 8th grade chorus sang "Winter Wonderland" with precise, rich harmonies and attention to dynamic detail that was simply beautiful by any standard. I've been working with them since they were in 6th grade, and so hearing them sing like that is a triumph on many levels. We then worked on "Do You Hear What I Hear?"--a challenging piece for their age. In spite of the challenges, I had chills a number of times and got teary once. In fact, I had to turn and pretend to write something on the board as I don't want them to know they can wring tears out of my stern heart of stone. They sang like young adults and it was magnificent.
They did so well that I let them have the last few minutes of class to go outside and run around on the playground. There were two other classes out there as well--a 1st and a 2nd grade class, but I wasn't worried even a bit about my kids behaving appropriately.
I watched my students in the golden light of a crisp fall afternoon, playing kickball and spinning in circles and playing tag and four-square. They ran and kicked and laughed--the childlike sides of their current developmental states becoming dominant at that moment. I hope I am never so old or dour that I cannot be moved to great joy when watching children run and play in the sunshine.
After school, we had play practice and as I put my 11-13 year old actors through their paces, I marveled at them again. I am blessed with wonderful students, and so I have the luxury of being able to be a little relaxed with them--we work hard, but we can have fun as well. I love their senses of humor. They are old enough to get irony and dry humor, but not too cool to be ashamed of laughing unabashedly, or thinking something's funny. They like to be teased at this age, and will frequently tease me back--sometimes coming up with something really witty and clever.
I basked in how hard they worked to get this play ready. Fiddler on the Roof is not an easy play, especially for kids of this age. But they are such good sports and such good workers--it makes me happy and proud to watch them. They are also growing to the point that they can do some extraordinary choreography, sing demanding passages, and really, and truly act.
They are sweet kids, smart kids, funny kids. Yes, they talk too much and sometimes they make me think that a monastery in Tibet sounds like a good idea. But the warmth and energy they bring to my life, their laughter and sincere affection, along with the quality of their work--these things make my soul sing, and make my spirit swell with gratitude to be around them. When they do good work, when I see them mature and grow, when they come back to see me years later, or, as in the case of one sweet student yesterday, very sincerely invite me to show up to a birthday party (I thought it best to decline, but still, it was a nice thought!)--well, then sings my soul!
After school today, I taught some voice lessons. I do this almost every day of the week. It's a helpful supplement to our family income and it's an enjoyable chance to work with a student in a more focused way than I am able to when I am teaching a class.
One of my students today was so excited because a friend had taught her how to play "Heart and Soul" on the piano. She wanted to show me and while I watched her, I noticed the look of sheer delight and joy on her face. She sincerely found great joy in what she was doing.
That's one of the reasons I teach--because I like to see those moments when the joy of understanding or comprehension flashes on a face.
Learning, especially in the areas I teach, should be joyful. It should be exciting.
Here's the paradox, though, and the great dilemma. True joy comes only when something has been mastered or understood. And this understanding comes only after practice and work. This often requires nagging and reminding and disciplining. If I let my students do only what they want, they will experience a lot of mediocrity, but no real joy.
So, for my students to experience the joy, I have to be strict with them sometimes. I have to push them and coax them and correct them. Sometimes this seems to take the joy out of it.
As a teacher, then I face these questions: how do I balance rigor and joy? Strictness and fun? Discovery and exploration with practice and precision? These are especially relevant when dealing with middle school students.
It's the same for parents, I think. I don't claim that these thoughts are original or novel. Just what I'm thinking about at the moment.
Are there larger implications here? Something this might tell us about the nature of God and why He does some of the things He does?