I returned to Washington School for my second of four visits. I had pretty much emptied my song bag the first time, so I arrived with nothing firm in mind. Turns out that this was okay.

I started off with my Rudolph song as an ice breaker and it was fun. I then wanted to do a folk song to see if they still learned about the old favorites. I did She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain with all the bells and whistles and it was fun. We had talked about Thanksgiving and family traditions, so as we did the grandmother verses, I decided to open it up and asked about things their grandmoms did. We put them in the song: cleaning up (rubbing and squeaking), making apple pies (roll the dough, smell the pie and gobble it down) and saying goodbye (pinch the cheeks and a sloppy kiss). It turned into a great exercise with wonderful communication. The work I did with them last week has opened them up for great dialogue.

I asked if there were any tunes they wanted to do again and they came up with Bear Hunt and the Cat Came Back. So we did the Bear Hunt and added some obstructions to the mix. A stampede of chickens (wild cackling), hale storm and spider webs.

The Cat Came Back had some nice growth as well. Since the kids knew the words, I went into having the kids solo on the chorus. I pulled a maraca from the bag to use as a microphone and gave it to my first volunteer, a boy who was into it. He muffed the words but I referred to my set at Symphony Hall on Sunday saying that I screwed up the words as well. Several other boys and girls tried it, often quite soft-spoken but in tune.

The crowd started pointing to the older boy in the back and he really didn’t want to do it, so I asked him to form a boy group. He got to choose two other boys and I got out two extra maracas. I said they needed a name and they came up with a good one. And they did the chorus well. I then put together three girls as a girl group. They were quite shy but, when it came down to it, they did fine. As each group finished I asked for a standing ovation for the boys and a ‘golf cheer’ (patter of hands) for the girls.

We finished up with All Around the Kitchen and it was time to go.

Driving back to Bethlehem in the rain, I felt that the time had gone quickly and that the session was very successful, in spite of having no plan at the beginning. I really enjoy being able to create interactive situations on the fly, come up with variations, movements, group dynamics, etc. It’s really a theater improv class. The principal was there the whole time, participating and observing. It turned out to a very rich experience for the kids and for me. Always learning.