It was D-Day and the culmination of my part of the South Side Children’s Festival, a pilot project developed my friend Doug Roysdon for after-school arts programming. I’ve been working with two sections of kids over four sessions in the last two months. The little kids worked on Down By the Bay, a verse of The Cat Came Back as well as lots of play. The older kids worked on the heavier stuff, creating a Holy Infancy song/movement piece.

Today was the full school assembly featuring their work as well as my general nonsense. These kids know my stuff, after years and years of my pro bono investment in my local community. I had many great opportunities to talk about my connections with this school and my neighborhood.

I had invited my friend Ed McKendry to help me record the proceedings, for use with promoting the SSCF idea to the greater Bethlehem School District next year, as well as for the school itself. I hope to glean some performances for video use, as well. Ed will come up with some very interesting stuff as we used several cameras, including his hand-held camera. He wandered all over during the show and got some great shots. A mega-bonus to this hometown concert.

Early on I played a bunch of their favorites: Tutti Tah (learned in this very basement), Bear Hunt, etc. I then did the Cat Came Back with the new verse. Giants, a favorite. It was now showtime!

I got both groups up to do the Down By the Bay verses, complete with body movements on the part of the little kids up front and the older kids in back. It was a mixed bag of kids reactions, all quite understandable with the few kids having fun on stage. Anyway you look at it, it was pretty amazing display of “Kids on Stage Productions.” I get the best seat in the house.

That brought us to the good stuff with the Holy Infancy Song. I had the chance to mention the three values of the school, painted on the left of the exit to Fourth Street: Justice, Peace and Love. We demonstrated the sign language with the kids on stage leading the way. In place and ready to call upon.

I started the song and grew and grew as we went along. It was designed to be repetitive and simple and the chorus set up nicely, both the kids singing doing the movements on stage, and the kids in the audience singing along. (Again, I drop out my vocals to encourage the school’s ‘voice’.) Justice (4x), chorus, Peace (4x), chorus, Love (4x), and several solo explorations toward the end.

These solo additions to the song were particularly interesting, now knowing these kids over the last several weeks. We are now friends and fellow artists and it was pleasing to me to see their physical statements presented in front of their fellow students on this stage. Each stepped up and did their favorite hand sign, and then we followed with a full school signing, standing and signing the song. Great, great volume and energy in the room. This was one of the aims of this project. School ownership of the song.

What followed was an important part of the project as well. We did the HI chorus again, but with each kid’s signature on the song. We had worked on each kids stepping forward with their own ‘Ta Dah!’. And each did their thing in remarkably personal fashion, including a back bend flip and, most wonderfully, from the shy guy in the bunch, a simple Buddhist bow of humility that was spot on. Quite the fine ending.

We ended up doing Zombie Jamboree, under duress from some of my group kids on stage who wanted to do their best zombie imitations. We finished with Magic Penny, again recalling the Love motion.

It’s all on tape so we’ll see what surfaces. It was an amazing gig in so many ways.