Children Singing Together

 


School concerts and musical performances are always a highlight for me as a grandparent. With ten grandchildren ranging from 14 months to 14 years I have had many invitations to share the excitement and enjoy watching the children participate and contribute to musical events.

The theme and focus of these performances has varied from concert to concert but the children are always excited about performing and entertaining their audience. I am always amazed by the enthusiasm of the children and their eagerness to do their best and perform well on the stage whether they are acting, singing, dancing or playing musical instruments. As well as being impressed by the talents and skills of the young people performing I am also aware of the support and encouragement that is provided in the background by the teachers and leaders who have worked with the children and prepared them for their final performances. Particularly impressive is the way teachers work collaboratively to support and encourage students with their various projects and performances.

As well as attending school concerts and performances, musical recitals and orchestral performances I have also been fortunate in being able to attend a number of concerts featuring the Boite Schools Chorus which provide amazing learning experiences for young people. The quality of these concerts has been outstanding on every occasion and a feature of these events has been the collaborative nature of the projects.  Teachers and choir leaders from many different schools  work together to produce an amazing outcome. The Boite Schools Chorus productions which I have attended have been projects for schools and community youth choirs that have involved students across Victoria. The performances featuring massed choirs of 200 plus have been outstanding. Two of these concerts were held at the Melbourne Town Hall and prior to that I attended a concert at Federation Square in Melbourne.

The Boite is an organisation which supports culturally diverse artists and works towards raising community awareness. The school choirs program requires singers across the state to learn a set repertoire so that they are able to meet and perform together at a grand concert. The program broadens the horizons of the children who participate. Each year the chorus focusses on a different cultural theme and the stories and music are well-researched and presented providing an amazing learning experience for those involved. The focus of the concerts that I have attended has been on storytelling with a cultural theme through music.

The focus for 2018 was a Mission Songs Project which was an initiative to research and revive songs composed and performed on the aboriginal missionary settlements and it researched responses across Australia during the mission era of around 1901 to 1967. The songs tell stories of indigenous families and communities and are about day to day life in the missions. The Choir Director this year was Jessica Hitchcock who is an award winning Indigenous singer, song writer, musician, composer and director. Jessica was an inspiration for the group of more than 200 students which she led with enthusiasm. The choir produced beautiful sounds and harmony, as she led the children through an hour of singing and movement.

The process of building this choir experience was complex but effective. The children  began singing the songs in small groups with their choir leaders and after much practice and training the children in the various groups joined together and ultimately produced an amazing performance. The audience were definitely impressed but the experience for the children working on this project was exciting and one which will not quickly be forgotten. As well as learning a lot about music and the challenges of singing together the children were introduced to stories, songs and history of our indigenous communities. There were a number of Concerts scheduled around the same time with different children performing the same program at different venues. The Concert that I attended was at the Melbourne Town Hall and there were approximately 30 participating choirs who joined together  for this outstanding performance. Jessie Lloyd, the Artistic Director is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, musician, composer, director, curator and musicologist. She launched the Mission Songs Project CD and Concerts in 2017 after extensive research into the day to day life and music of the mission days across Australia. For the children involved this was a positive and fun musical experience which demonstrated what can be achieved when individuals work together to achieve a common goal.

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A New Start

Finally I am back to updating my blog. The last blog that I posted was in early November 2017, just a couple of days before I had a second hip replacement. My first hip replacement was in February 2017. In early April 2018, I had a knee replacement which means that within a 13 month period I had 3 major operations. Fortunately the operations have been successful and my recovery has been good although I am still working at finding time for physiotherapy, pilates and daily exercise to help me to regain my strength. I’m also starting to use the treadmill regularly at home and making a new start with the exercise bike. The progress is gradual but hopefully I will be able to regain enough strength to be able to begin to enjoy quality of life once again.

Since the last operation I’ve been enjoying coffee and lunch dates and short trips to the shops which I have not been able to do for some time. I’ve been spending a lot of time at home and appreciate the beautiful park views that I can see from my front windows. The weather has been cold but the big windows in my lounge room have allowed the sun to shine through and warm the apartment in the mornings. The sunshine is very welcome after a frosty and cold morning.

Extra time at home has meant that I’ve had to sort out a variety of activities to stay busy and keep my mind challenged. For some time I’ve had a mild interest in family history and learned a bit about grandparents and great grand parents on both sides of the family. I have some details on my phone but nothing had been written down in a way that my children or grandchildren could access. So I’ve made a beginning and I’ve been trying to sort the information for one relative each day and then print and file that person’s story with a view to building a story that might be shared read by the family at some stage. Now that I’ve made a start on the story there might be details or little stories that I can add to the files as I move along.

Time at home has helped me to appreciate the value of the blogging world and I love reading the stories shared by fellow bloggers. I enjoy the variety in the stories experiences and ideas and I find that the opportunity to read the ideas of other bloggers enriches my world and exposes me to a variety of different perspectives which can be stimulating and sometimes challenging. Sometimes the stories remind me of my own experience and they prompt memories which otherwise might be forgotten.

More time at home and a change in pace has meant that I now have the freedom to choose and to think about what I’d like to do each day. I can choose to read, write, revise some Italian through on- line programs, watch a movie, explore some brain training games or simply play computer games for fun. I have time to make some phone calls, send a message to a friend or simply indulge in some catch up television as well as spending time exercising and working hard to re-build physical strength and work hard on rehabilitation.

August 15, 2018

It’s been a while since I began writing this blog, probably because I’ve been distracted by other activities and maybe because I’ve lacked the discipline required to persevere with my writing. As well as spending time on reading I’ve been getting caught up with television shows and extended an interest in exploring and playing simulation games on my phone. The interest in games has been prompted by encouragement and coaching from grandchildren and I’m keen to explore new games and find out more about this fun world.

Recently I’ve been reading about Africa. Paula McLain’s ‘Circling the Sun’ revived many memories of living in Africa, our trips to Nairobi and travel through Kenya. Her stories of Beryl Markham and life in 1920’s colonial Kenya are absorbing and I found it difficult to put the book down. This great read prompted me to watch the movie ‘Out of Africa’ and now I’m enjoying Isak Dinesen’s book ‘Out of Africa’ which tells stories of the life of Karen Blixen and the challenges of managing a coffee plantation in Kenya which was started around 1914. I loved the sound track of the film as well as the stories and beautiful views of Kenya.

Stories of the Masai in Kenya reminded me of an amazing family adventure which we began in Dar Es Salaam, where we lived at the time. We travelled to Arusha and Mount Kilimanjaro and across the Serengeti Plains with a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater and then on through Kenya to Nairobi in the 80’s. A great experience for a family of seven travelling together. I’m looking forward to reading more about Africa both past and present.

Please Don’t Egg My house!

 

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Who would have thought that the word ‘egg’ could bring back memories and inspire someone to write? I guess most people have had lots of experiences with eggs both positive and negative. My fondest memory of eggs is from the 60’s when devilled eggs were popular. They’re also known as stuffed eggs or Russian eggs. They are hard boiled eggs that have been shelled, cut in half and filled with a mixture made from the egg yolks mixed such as mayonnaise and mustard and are usually served cold and served at parties. I loved those devilled eggs and I had forgotten about this tasty dish until a few years ago when I went to America and they were served at a restaurant in Nashville. Very exciting!

I also have lots of Easter egg memories. There have been chocolate eggs, red eggs, painted and decorated eggs, egg hunts, stories about Easter eggs and the Easter bunny and I have strong memories of setting up surprise visits from the Easter img_0157bunny at home and at school. In recent years we had a family egg and spoon race which was lots of fun and the adults were surprisingly competitive.

There have been lots of experiments with eggs in the classroom and at home. There is the egg in the bottle experiment where the egg gets sucked into the neck of the bottle and the egg in vinegar experience where the vinegar dissolves the eggshell. I was never sure what I was doing but we usually figured it out.  I’ve also read lots of stories to children in the classroom about eggs and chickens and many attempts at incubating and hatching eggs in the classroom. Some were more successful than others but it was always an exciting activity.

In the 70’s when I had young children there was lots of discussion and advice from others about how to cook eggs for children. The popular view was that the eggs should be coddled and there was no end to the advice that was available to a young mother on how to coddle that egg in the best interests of the child’s future. Sadly, I was short on culinary skills and I never mastered that important skill of coddling an egg. I also remember learning to cook egg custard and egg mayonnaise, scrambled eggs, fried eggs and soft and hard boiled eggs. There was always lots of advice on how to improve these recipes much of which I’ve forgotten but I do always remember never to crack the eggs directly into the bowl with other ingredients and crack them one by one into a glass to check that the eggs are good.

Over the years there has been extensive debate about whether eggs are good for us or not and I’ve tried to follow that advice. It seems that now it’s good to have an egg and increase our protein intake. Eggs are prominent on most breakfast menus in cafes and they’re presented in many ways and added to a variety of dishes.

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The word ‘egg’ prompts me also to think of it in the context of ‘egging’ or pushing someone to do or say something or maybe stirring up ideas. “Egging’ is also a word  used to describe a prank where eggs are thrown at people, cars or houses. Usually the eggs are raw but sometimes they are old and rotten. This is something that I have experienced recently. Since I have been living in my small apartment that overlooks a park I have experienced the results of people having fun and throwing eggs at my window or at my balcony. Sometimes it has been one egg but at other times four or five eggs have been thrown. It is difficult to clean and the smell can be bad. It has happened a number of times. Sometimes it happens during the year but usually at the end of the year when school exams have finished. Apparently ‘egging’ can be lots of fun. For me, it’s not a fun experience but I’ve learned to deal with it.

The end of the school year is approaching! Perhaps this year I should post a sign saying, ‘Please don’t ‘egg’ my house!’

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A Change of Pace

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A change of pace brought about by a focus on rehab after surgery has meant that my life this year has been more relaxed and I’ve had time to follow my interests and use my time in a different way. I haven’t worked full time for a number of years but until recently I have worked casually doing supervision of teacher training in schools as well as doing voluntary work supporting adults who are learning English as a second language. This year, I’ve not  scheduled these activities due to a change in circumstances and I have begun to enjoy a different life style. This new life style  was triggered by a hip replacement in February which brought a focus on recovery and rehabilitation, as well as planning and preparing for further surgery which has been scheduled for next Monday. Movement and exercise has been an important focus, beginning with regular meetings with a physiotherapist, a home exercise programme and small group physiotherapy/Pilates classes twice a week. These exercise sessions are supervised by a physiotherapist and structured to meet individual needs. The activities in these classes were new for me. I’ve regularly attended a gym and there were some familiar exercises but Pilates machines and trapeze tables were a whole new world. I was a bit overwhelmed at the beginning, mainly because my mobility was very limited. I was definitely challenged by the activities but I persevered and gradually built the strength and confidence to try new things each week. The classes are challenging but fun. My mobility is still limited but very much improved and a physiotherapy app on my phone which outlines exercises and records results has helped me to stay motivated and exercise regularly.

Exercise and movement are only a small part of my day. I listen to a variety of programs on the radio and I have  time to keep up with news updates on-line, read lots of magazines, tape and watch a wide variety of television programs and read lots of books. I’ve also continued my weekly Italian classes and spent more time on reading and reviewing topics. As a result I now have a better understanding of the language generally. On line language programs and games have helped me to remember vocabulary and grammar.

A change of  pace has given me more time to explore technology, social media and play computer games. I can go for walks and explore the shops or sometimes go for a short drive to a nearby river to sit and read or go for a short walk. There is more  time to meet friends and family for lunch or coffee as well as time to  explore the many options in terms of cafes,  their atmosphere, menus and service. I’ve learned to appreciate the good cafes when I find them. It can be fun to try other places but it can also be disappointing and sometimes prompts a quick return to the old favourite that gives good service and quality food.

Recently I  removed the cover from my guitar and started to re-learn some skills. I learned to play the guitar more than forty years ago and played it at home and occasionally at school when teaching. I haven’t played it seriously for many years and have to work hard to recall what I had learned. Prior to this I’ve had a few attempts  but I lacked the motivation to start again. This year I’ve gone back to the beginning. I’ve tuned the guitar and begun playing simple melodies using one or two strings to start. The process is slow but I’ve persevered. I’ve tried a few basic chords but chord changes have been challenging and they’ll need practice and perseverance.

An extra bonus with this change of pace is that I have time to appreciate the view from my small apartment that overlooks a park with a small lake and  gardens. The outlook is peaceful and calm but there is always something interesting happening. There is a children’s playground and barbecue areas and as I look out of the window now  I can see a family setting up for a birthday party, people walking their dogs, young people cooking on a barbecue and others setting out their rugs for a picnic. The sun is shining through the windows and although the day is a little cold I am able to appreciate this beautiful park, while writing, reading, playing brain games, reviewing vocabulary on my language app and generally enjoying life, without stepping outside.

Next week, things will change again when I go to the hospital for a second hip replacement. I’ll be in hospital for a short time and then once again begin rehab and return to physio, exercise, lots of movement and a gradual shift back to recovery, more fun activities and perhaps another change in direction. I hope to be able to walk further and return to more challenging excursions but meanwhile I will stay focussed on exercising and further rehabilitation and enjoy the change of pace.

 

Jangle, ‘Bojangle’, tinkle, bells, tintinnabulation – what’s it all about?

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Recently the word ‘jangle’ was suggested as a word prompt for writing and, as a starting point, I began thinking about its meaning and place in the English language. The word reminded me of the entertainer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, an American actor and dancer who made a series of movies with Shirley Temple in the  1930’s. He did minstrel shows and vaudeville and was a great tap dancer. I searched for the origins of his name and found that it might have been a nickname from when he was a child. In 1968, Jeffrey Walker wrote the folk song ‘Mr. Bojangles’ which apparently refers to Bill Robinson indirectly but the lyrics are actually not about the 1930’s performer. I remember hearing this song in the 60’s or early 70’s. I listened to it again and then watched Sammy Davis Jnr. singing this song with his Mr. Bojangles hat and adding some skilled tap dancing. Amazing! Great song! Great performance!

Still thinking about the jangle in ‘Bojangle’ I searched for definitions of the word ‘jangle’. I found a definition which described it as a ringing metallic sound which can sometimes be discordant or unpleasant. I was not surprised to find that words such as tinkle, chime, clash and clink were suggested as synonyms for ‘jangle’ but  there was another word that I had not heard. It was ‘tintinnabulation’. For me, it was unusual and I questioned  its relevance in everyday language. I decided to try to find out more about this word. I expected to find very little information  but I was wrong. There was lots for me to learn in this area and  my interest began to shift  from the word ‘jangle’ and the amazing ‘Mr. Bojangles’ to a quest to find out more about ‘tintinnabulation’.

Still expecting to find limited information, I looked at definitions and found that this word is derived from a Latin word ‘tintinnabulum’ which means ‘tinkling bell’ and comes  from the verb tinnire – to ring. I learned that ‘tintinnabulation’ is related to  the ringing of bells and the lingering sound that can be heard after a bell has been struck and I  found that Edgar Allan Poe used the word in his poem, ‘The Bells’ which was first published in 1849. In his poem, Poe described the tinkle of the sleigh bells…

‘Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells,

From the bells, bells, bells…

I thought that this was an interesting nineteenth century poem that showed the onomatopoeic character of the word but believed that it was a word from the past until I began reading about  the September 2017 Tinnabulation Music festival to be held annually in Spokane, Washington. I realised that for me this word was new but  others  were not only familiar with the  word but they were comfortable with using it as a focus for a Music festival. The festival covered a variety of musical genres and this year it had over 50 bands and 4 stages. Apparently, the name of the festival is related to the sounds of the bells that ring from the clock tower at the Riverfront Park, Spokane, linking the local area with the music scene. Since making this discovery I’ve followed the development of this festival and listened to a number of bands that were performing.

Still curious, I began searching for further information about the idea of ‘tintinnabulation’ in music. I discovered a composition written by Mark Purdy for Concerts for Upper Primary School children called ‘Tintinnabulation’. The piece features alternating time signatures and optional bell parts. I also discovered a Tintinnabulum band and music for the environment with peaceful bell sounds of Tintinnabulum music. There were other examples. After that I found the music of Arvo Part, a modern Estonian composer who, in 1976, composed a piece called ‘Fur Alina’ which was part of a Tintinnabuli movement in music which is peaceful, spiritual and melodic. I had listened to this music before but not thought very much about the style. This music is a compositional style created by Arvo which has simple melodies and harmonies. It has two dominant voices and often contains the single notes of a triad. The sound resembles the tinkling of a bell and sometimes it is presented in the form of an arpeggio. An example of this style of music is ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel'(1978), a beautiful and moving piece which is sometimes heard at weddings. Arvo’s compositions are calm and peaceful.  I had  heard this music on the radio but I had no understanding of the structure of his compositions.

The word ‘jangle’ has prompted many new ideas and led my thinking and writing along an uncertain pathway to a new world of music. I will continue listening to Arvo Part’s music, follow future developments for the Tinnabulation music festival in Spokane and perhaps one day I’ll return to the stories and music of the Bojangles era.  An understanding of the idea of ‘tintinnabulation’ has made me more aware of  musical sounds such as the lingering sound of the  guitar string when it is strummed and the hum of the notes of the piano. I now listen more attentively to the harmonies in peaceful and spiritual music and appreciate both the simplicity and the complexity of the compositions.

Word prompts for writing can be interesting and challenging and lead to new discoveries and I’m ready for the next writing  challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Start with Blogging…

The world of blogging has placed me on a steep learning curve which I find both challenging and daunting.  In recent weeks I’ve tried to familiarise myself with the idea of blogging and I’ve been reading the ideas and comments posted on various sites. I’ve enjoyed reading and exploring the different sites and I like the sense of connection and community that comes through the comments from fellow bloggers. The title for my site, ‘A Life of Surprises’  reflects the unpredictable pathway of my life to date. Life with my family, living, working and studying overseas was unpredictable. The length of our stay was often uncertain and everyday life in so many different countries was full of surprise. We often didn’t know where we would be from year to year but every year brought fun, laughter and many challenges. Travelling with a family of seven was not easy but always an adventure. We were not always sure of our direction but the certainty in our life was that we were a family that enjoyed life together and wherever we ventured we were learning to be resilient and learning about ourselves and the lives of others living in developing countries.

When we first set out overseas my husband and I had three little girls aged 5, 4 and 2. We packed up our house after renovating, painting, changing the carpets and making and hanging new curtains for the ceiling to floor windows throughout the house. The house had never felt so homely and comfortable. We wanted to make the house perfect for the person who would lease it. Looking back I think we were both naive and idealistic and later learned through experience that not everyone who rents a house takes good care of it and there are some who think nothing of damaging it. Our first destination was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The plan was to be there for 12 months but year by year that period was extended. We had two babies while we were living in KL and when we finally returned to re-settle in Australia after seven or eight years we had five daughters.

We stayed in Australia for around 18 months until, prompted by my husband’s question, ‘ How would you like to live in Ethiopia?’ and after lots of research, discussion and planning, we packed up again and excitedly set off for Addis Ababa with our family to experience a new and different kind of life. This was the beginning of a series of adventures living and working and sending our children to school in Africa. Later we moved to Tanzania and Uganda as well as living in Australia for short periods between those assignments. Life was challenging, sometimes exciting, sometimes ordinary and often unexpected and surprising.

Some years later, my husband worked in Swaziland while the girls and I remained at home. Separations were not easy but they were marked by innumerable phone calls and long conversations which kept us close and very much in touch and up to date with what was happening at both ends. Cocus Island and Mongolia were also on the agenda for our separated lives, although I was fortunate in being able to live for a short period on Cocus and discover an amazing tropical paradise.

When the children were older my husband and I went to Jakarta. This time we went for my work and my husband came with me. At the time, I suggested that we take one suitcase and have a working holiday for a year or so but we extended contracts each year and ultimately stayed there for around 8 years. We returned to Australia with lots of ideas for places to go and things to do but sadly my husband became unwell and he died in 2009. We had a great life together and there are many memories to look back on.
Since then I’ve worked, travelled and enjoyed voluntary work. I’ve moved to a new apartment in an area that’s new to me and made new friends. I’ve spent time at the gym, listened to music, been to concerts and musicals, helped to document local history, joined book clubs and a travel group, started learning Italian, read lots of books, watched lots of television and recently expanded my world to group physiotherapy and Pilates. I’ve spent time with my children and grandchildren and always look forward to celebrating their birthdays with the family. This week we’re celebrating the arrival of a new baby boy. He’s 5 days old and I’m excited about going to Canberra to meet him. He has a 22 month old sister and he is the youngest of ten grandchildren.

My life is quieter these days.  I look forward to travelling again but currently I’m spending more time at home and I’m grateful for modern technology. Radio, television, social media and books provide me with on-going learning and help to keep me connected with the world. Writing and reading have always been a part of my life and I hope that through this activity I can become part of the blogging world and make a positive contribution to this community of thinkers and writers. If there are readers who can relate to some of what I’ve written I’d like to hear from them.