Kearny is close to NYC, just across the Hudson River, so it was a long drive through Jersey traffic to get there in time for the first of two sets at 9:30 am. Thanks to the custodians, I got my stuff in on time and set up, ready to go for the K – 3rd grades.
I briefly met the music teacher, a former cantor for a temple in Easton, and we chatted briefly about Pete Seeger. Seems he had taken a course from him at a community college at one time. That was very cool. He also said that the kids were ready for folk music, having learned If I Had a Hammer, and other songs. That was a good sign.
The younger kids were great and the set got me in a sweat. I started with ‘Shovelin” appropriately, since a big storm is on its way for Thursday. I followed with my usual assortment of Tuttie Tah, Cat Came Back, PB $ J, etc. with everyone dancing at the end. Good show.
The second set was going to be more challenging, with 4th – 6th grades, and, I expected, a more jaded attitude for folk music. Also the music teacher was in the audience, and my approach to ‘folk music’ is a little different from his. I try to work on the broader concept of ‘folk’ as community-owned music, so I brought out ‘Peanut Butter’ and ‘My Girl’ as examples of singing together. I got the different classes (and the teachers) to take chorus’s of Cat Came Back to establish their own voices, as well as letting the school hear its own voice (sans me). Important. We finished with ‘All Around the Kitchen’ and it was great, with the kids all dancing and adding some of their own moves to the mix. This is turning out to be a real pleasing adddition to the show, relative chaos, but with the ‘stop real still’ freeze, a nice reset button for the energy.
At the end, the music teacher wanted to show off his kids, so he sat at the piano and the group sang ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and ‘So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You’. Very cool.
To top it off, one of the custodians, a roadie for some regional oldies shows, pitched in and helped me break down and load out. That was great, especially since I was drained from the drive and two energetic performances. A fine day, indeed.
It was great to work with a new audience, some older kids and a very receptive school for my work. I came away glad that I do what I do, and I do it well.