Calypso… who won’t want to play there?
I really enjoy returning annually to schools where the kids and staff are familiar with my material. I asked the kids before the show what they wanted to hear and it was Cat Came Back, Cat Came Back and Cat Came Back. It was an excellent opportunity for me to ‘play’ and experiment with a receptive audience.
I decided to start out with The Cat Came Back, naturally. I did a verse and the kids were on board immediately. Getting the kids to sing along was easy from the start, and I acknowledged that, taught the new kids the chorus. We were set to play.
I did a verse and then asked the 4th grade to sing the chorus by themselves. They were sitting down. A good instinctive choice. They sang it full voice and the rest of the audience knew it, even the older kids. (!!!)
I then asked the 5th grade to stand up now, and sing the chorus ala “Frozen”, as the rest of the school watched. Again, several kids, both boys and girls (!!) got theatrical. And it was great to see this small community spotlight on a particular grade level shine. Challenge accepted.
Here’s where I thought things are getting interesting and this is the point that I will keep on this path of, dare I say, performance art?
I got the second grade up to sing the chorus like cats, so they meowed through the whole thing, committed and strong. They stood up among their community and nailed it as a group. Now, everyone is committed in seeing this through.
Teachers next. Of course. I asked them to sing it as an opera. Several teachers took diva poses, though the teachers could have really grabbed on this. But. as I acknowledged, it’ been a long, long school year, so they got a weak pass from me.
The last group was the pre-K, K and first grade. I wasn’t initially sure what to do. Performance skills are quite wildly different, even among these three levels. Not much to rely on, as performers. (Cute works, though.) So it turned out to be good to lump them together and have them stand up and sing, even after all the other groups had showcased. Pretty tough situation, but in a highly supportive spot. Show time for all of us.
I had the wee ones sing the chorus as if they were babies, so we ‘waa waaed’ through the chorus together. They did it, and I believe, by that time, everyone was ‘waa waaing’ along with their little brothers and sisters. The community was sealed, and it was through a folk song.
It was only the first song of my set.
This is what happens when an artist can return to a familiar venue. The acceptance is immediate and the artist now has a fresh, clean pallet to work from, to work on the second and third level of their art. This is the dream of every musician I know, to play for folks who get it and amp up their art to another level.
This happens all the time at Godfrey Daniels and it remains one of the great joys I have in my life, to have, in a small way, brought about a space that fosters this interaction in my own community. For thirty nine years. Today, I had a ‘Godfrey’s performance experience’ with 250 kids across the river in my home town of Bethlehem. Carting my art into my community.
A good day to play. Mayfair in Allentown and Calypso school in Bethlehem. These remain rich fields to plant musical seeds and plow them into the soil this spring – soon to be summer.