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Handel’s Messiah

26 Nov

Part of me doesn’t want to listen to Handel’s Messiah again for at least a year.

Another part of me wants to be back on stage again and again, singing it better each time, and reveling in the fun of the moment, the gorgeous soloists, the lovely accompanying symphony.

Part of me will not miss waking up singing a different chorus every day, wondering which one it will be today that follows me around incessantly.

Another part of me will miss having the background theme songs in my dreams.

I will miss having something to challenge me musically – it had been many, many years since I’d sung in a choir and what will fill that void? I will miss seeing new friends every week. I will miss the anticipation – several decades in the making – of singing this oratorio. For as long as I can remember – probably way back when my parents sang in it when I was a kid, Dad taking the bass solo and Mom the soprano – I have wanted to be a part of The Messiah.

In 10th grade, I missed out on singing the Hallelujah Chorus because I was ill. Had I known that it was a traditional part of the Christmas program at my school (it was my first year there) then I would have dragged myself out of bed and sung my heart out (probably infecting the entire soprano section in the process).

But I didn’t know. And I’ve been bummed ever since.

If I had a better voice – and a lot more ambition – I probably would have sung it long before now, as had many members of the chorus. But as it is, I second-guessed my presence in the rehearsal room every week! But I never wanted to quit. Not once.

As we performed the songs last night – to a sold-out crowd – I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak in the music, the ambiance. I was sitting right behind the bassoons with their fabulous, pure, deep notes, which was enough to practically make me swoon. And as for the soloists – well, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Carnegie Hall, they were that good.

I wished I was sitting next to my husband so that I could hold his hand and share the moment, but he, a tenor, was much too far away in the 70-some member choir. It was fun singing with him, though. He sings a lot more than I do so I enjoyed the rare chance to at least be in the same group with him.

Handel’s Messiah actually features in our courtship. My parents had invited him over for dinner – it was the first time he met my dad, I think, though he’d met Mom before. He came into the house and we all sat down at the table and The Messiah was playing in the background. My dad turned to him and asked him if he know what the music was.

Colin smiled and replied, “Handel’s Messiah!”

Dad smiled in return and, with his smile, told him he had permission to court his daughter.

Colin swiped his forehead and said, “Phew! I’m just glad it was a well-known piece of music!”

Dad nodded. “You got lucky, young man.”

That all happened close to 20 years ago. Last night, sitting there beneath the bright lights, felt like the culmination of that moment.

At various times throughout the concert I squinted into the crowds and found our children, sitting with a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of it all.

When it was all over – after the intermission, after the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra filled the auditorium with the marvelous strains of The Nutcracker Suite in the second half of the program and we’d sung Christmas carols (such a great entrance into the holiday season) and retrieved our coats and returned our music (a sad moment) our kids finally found us and hugged us and told us what they thought. Our youngest, at seven years old, said, “I loved it!” I asked her what bits she liked best. Without a pause she replied, “I don’t know. I slept through most of it.”

And that, my friends, is how our children keep us humble. Because Mom may be having an existential moment. But Lucy, lulled by the beauty of the music, just needed a nap.

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Children Shine On Stage With the Missoula Children’s Theater

4 Feb

One year ago, my daughter did something which she had never been able to do before. We’d wanted to do it before…but something always got in the way – like vacation, or busyness…or my memory.

But then, last January, she finally was able to try out and was in the Missoula Children’s Theater’s production of Hansel and Gretel.

This year, she did it again, playing the role of Martha in MCT’s The Secret Garden here in Worthington at the Memorial Auditorium.

I cannot adequately explain how great this experience is for the kids!
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Here’s how it works, for those unfamiliar. Two staff members with MCT lead the production. They travel to different towns – both small and large – to put on these “residency weeks”. The interested kids show up on Monday after school. (Or, as in the case this year in Worthington, on Tuesday because on that Monday all schools across Minnesota were closed due to the extreme cold.) The kids audition and after a short dinner break, they begin rehearsals.

They continue to rehearse every day after school until 8:15 each night.

Then, on Friday and Saturday, they perform. (This year locally they only had one performance, on Saturday, again due to the lack of that Monday’s rehearsal time.)

Canadian Geese...complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

Canadian Geese…complete with a Canadian vocabulary, eh?

The team comes complete with costumes, easy to manipulate and attractive sets, and all the scripts and teaching necessary for the kids to be successful. What emerges is a wonderful performance – funny, age-appropriate, cute-as-all-get-out. Kids from kindergarten through 12th grade are eligible.

It is a fabulous opportunity for kids to gain confidence through inter-personal skills, public speaking skills, and yes, even acting skills! It also gives them experience in theater and even in independence, giving each child a little shove towards self-discipline and self-awareness. They are encouraged through their team work and their personal achievements.

What garden is complete without flowers?

What garden is complete without flowers?

In a town our size, I think that pretty much everyone who auditions gets a part (in fact, they had to cut a few roles this year because there weren’t enough children), but that’s not always the case. However, auditions in and of themselves – even without success at the end – are learning experiences and can be good opportunities in learning how to handle disappointment. Kids need to learn that life doesn’t always give them what they want. The MCT website offers a little wisdom on how to handle the disappointment of a failed audition.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

Sheep, foxes, squirrels, and, of course, a robin.

The Missoula Children’s Theater began the early 70’s. It is an international organization. They have around 75 people listed as Tour Staff, meaning that there are approximately 40 teams that travel around, winter and summer.

The Missoula Children’s Theater’s mission statement is,”The development of life skills in children through participation in the performing arts.”

They go on to say this: “MCT…strives to use participation in the performing arts as a vehicle to develop the life skills (social skills, communication skills, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, an understanding of the team concept and self-esteem) necessary to answer the challenges of our time.”

In other words, whatever the skill-level of your child – whether used to performing or compete novices – they can and will grow through the MTC experience.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

The humans in The Secret Garden.

As a parent, it is a thrill to see five intense days culminate in a splendid performance. I encourage everyone, with or without kids in the cast, to attend the show at the end of the week – it’s a great way to encourage the young children of your acquaintance and to spend 60 or so minutes enjoying the fun of a live performance – complete with the happy unexpected joys of children on stage!

Many thanks to Missoula Children’s Theater for their recent visit to Worthington!

Born for the stage!

Born for the stage!

The Vast Loneliness of Empty Places

14 Aug

The stage is bare; void of life, void of music, void of specifics. Only possibilities remain.

I don’t like it: the empty floor, its vital tape – marking the difference between perfection and burning feathers – gone, tossed away, unneeded. The blank backdrop, the spotlights hanging limply in their places, the costumes, lying flat and unamusing in a pile of unwashed glory.

I hear a whispered cue and spin around, my eyes huge with wonder, but it’s just the wind through the open door. Just a memory of things past, of a summer over, a season complete.

My heart aches with the emptiness of that which ought to be filled.

Hats at rest.

Rocking chairs need occupants.

Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to the theater for another year. Time to shut off the lights. To pull the curtains. To wave a final goodbye from the wings.

It’s time to retire my blue eye shadow. To throw my granny boots back into the closet. To eat my raisins rather than sing about them.

I remember other goodbyes. Other unworn costumes, empty playgrounds, bully pulpits void of bully preachers. I remember the wrongness of summer camp when the campers have all gone home, the echoes of laughter through the cabins, the mournful music of the swings set to rocking by the autumn winds.

Or what about empty hallways at the end of the school day, or rusting airplanes – their wheels held down by blackberry brambles – never again taking to the air, to the wild blue, to misty lands filled with musky scents and seductive offers? I have seen broken bicycles, torn sails, dusty dollhouses, unread books, that have set my heart yearning for their glory days.

Even empty flowerpots set my mind racing with the possibilities.

Possibilities. Potential. Undiscovered countries.

Who knew that I could do the things I have done? Who knows what lies ahead?

There will be more opportunities. More heart-wrenching conclusions. More empty hands, reaching for something to hold.

There will be more.

There will be.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

7 Aug

To my fellow-bloggers: I hope this post explains my absence from your comments lately.   I’m looking forward to school starting in two weeks and more time for real life.

To all my faithful readers: I hope this inspires you to jump into your local community theater…because it’s worth it.

I have been asked several times over the past two and a half months, whether being in a production like The Music Man is worth my time and energy. Is it worth essentially giving up a summer? Is it worth the lost sleep, energy, and time?

The answer, without a doubt, is “yes”.

Yes, it’s like having an unpaid job. Yes, it drains you. Yes, it requires more brain power than I sometimes have at my disposal.

But it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because I get to see my husband shine on stage. I get to listen to people’s comments in the receiving line after the show and I can’t help but grin. I get to see him, hear him, watch him be Harold Hill. And, in real life, I’m his Marian.

Sadly, “Mrs. Squires” doesn’t get to kiss “Harold Hill” in the musical…so I took advantage of a moment in the wings.

It’s worth it because I get to see our three kids blossom. I get to hear compliments from our director, and see them grow and mature. What more can a mom ask for?

Yes, it’s worth it.

I know that time is a precious commodity. One of the most valuable around. It’s easy to quantify time: you simply add up the minutes and find a total. Even I, a mathematical dunce, can do that math. It is far less easy, of course, to quantify quality time, to determine, without question, whether the time you spent was worthwhile…or wasted, was well-spent…or lost moments of your life you’ll never get back again.

I am compelled to tell you today that the time I spent this summer rehearsing, thinking about, and performing in The Music Man has been, unequivocally, time that I not only will get back again – in memories and smiles and nostalgia – but also time that I am delighted to have spent.

Yes, I have had my doubts. When I’m crabby and grumpy and the production seems to be controlling my life. When the “trouble with a capital ‘T’” seems all too apropos. But then we’ll be driving into town with the family and someone says something and suddenly we’re singing “Wells Fargo Wagon” at the top of our lungs and we can’t stop laughing. And then along comes dress rehearsal week and we see everything come together and suddenly we’re in this living, thriving thing that we helped create…and it’s vibrant and funny and thrilling!

Yes, it is exhausting. I am sleeping too long in the morning, and going to bed too late at night. I have bags under my eyes and my hair is all weird from the vast amounts of hairspray I’m using. My kids are tired, too, and I don’t know how on earth they’re going to be back on the right schedules by the time school begins in two weeks.

BUT IT’S WORTH IT.

The whole family!

It’s worth it because my whole family is together, every night, having fun at the auditorium. It’s worth it because we’re working on a project, perfecting it, experiencing it, making it happen together. We’re making friends, deepening relationships, learning, expanding our horizons, getting out of our “box” together.

Our kids are getting to know other kids, but they’re also getting to know teenagers and adults who are kind to them, helpful to them, encouraging to them. They’re getting to see their dad goof around, work hard, and excel. They’re getting to see cast-mates mess up and learning that it’s okay to not be perfect. They’re learning to look out for each other but not to be bossy.

They’re learning to work together – sometimes with people vastly different from themselves – and to do so with dignity and respect.

They’re learning, I hope, to love a little more, listen a little closer, be patient a little longer.

Yes. It’s worth it. A million times over.

So, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Southwest Minnesota, please, come to see The Music Man at the Memorial Auditorium this coming Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Support family-friendly events like this in our community by attending. And THANK YOU so much to those businesses and individuals who have supported the production with your generous donations.

And please, think about participating in such an event in the future with your family.

Because, in spite of everything, it’s worth it.

I Join the Theater

19 May

We spent two hours this morning doing something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do again. We auditioned for a local Community Theater production this August here in Worthington, Minnesota.

I didn’t think I’d do this again for several reasons…many of which I wrote about below last summer and you can read about them as I’m reposting the the first post for you today. Another reason I didn’t think I’d do it again is that it’s a LOT of work…and time…to be in a production like this. HOWEVER…it’s worth it. It’s fun, it’s a great time to make new friends and deepen old friendships, and it’s something we can do all together as a family. Even five year-old Boo might be in on the action this year.
to top of our reasons for doing this again, it’s The Music Man…a favorite of our entire family. And so we’re diving in again. Stay tuned!!!

A fine day for an epiphany

Ok, so there are some things in life which sound better than they, in reality, are. Turkish Delight is one of these things. (I was brutally devastated when I first tasted real Turkish Delight, which I found in The Netherlands and bought with exceeding great joy. “WHAT?” I almost exclaimed outloud, trying hard to conceal my near-tears state of mind. “Edmund turned traitor for THIS?”) Lavender Ice Cream (from a cute little shop on Bainbridge Island, WA) is another. (“Ummm…WAY overrated!”) Asking Gretchen O’Donnell to dance and sing in a local theater version of Beauty and the Beast is another. And it’s a big one.

Now, I must admit, it’s possible that the powers that be who allowed me into this production never thought that seeing me dance was a good idea to begin with. I haven’t had the courage to ask them and I probably never will. But to…

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