The Primary School Concert – an annual event which has been striking fear into the hearts of parents, teachers and students for decades. Frankly its time somebody stood up and asked ‘Hasn’t this gone on long enough?’
Dadabulous vividly recalls being forced to play the glockenspiel in front of an audience at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre during the late 1970s. Surely this must have contravened the Geneva Convention. That he made it to middle age without psychological scarring is testimony to his strength of character. My memories are unarguably even more traumatic. In 1981, at the Gymea Bay Primary School Hall, my 5th grade class was coerced into miming along to a medley of Rolf Harris songs. Oh the humanity!
The early 80s was an unenlightened era. We failed to recognize true perversion even when it was staring us in the face. ‘Two little boys had two little toys’, ‘Tie me kangaroo down sport ‘ and shudder ‘Jake the peg with my extra leg’ all seemed perfectly normal at the time. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that we can see how sick and twisted it truly was. Fortunately things were better for the rest of my school – but not much. For instance a 4th Grade class was made to do a lack luster dance routine to The Captain and Tennille. Whilst love kept the whole thing together – just, all I can say is DONT do that to me one more time. (Boom Tish)*
Obviously Australian society has failed to learn from the mistakes of the past and the Primary School Concert baton has been handed to to a new generation. Our turn rolled around last Friday evening. It was two hours of my life that I would have otherwise spent scrolling aimlessly through Facebook and drinking Shiraz.
The anticipation had been mounting for weeks, particularly for my eight year old. Many hours had been dedicated to rehearsing and getting every detail just right. I even participated in a costume making bee – sans alcohol. It was a tough afternoon of sewing but I ploughed on, without alcohol, for the sake of the children. Finally the big night arrived and families converged en mass upon the Parade Theatres at NIDA. (Of course it was at F%#king NIDA! This is the Eastern beaches doncha know!). The venue so reeked of artiness that all of the bar men were dressed in black and bespectacled. I spent half and hour in the queue for a champagne as one does at the theatre.
I barely had time to skoll my bubbles before the performance bell rang. We ambled to our front row seats to spend the next 90 minutes with our necks crooked at an awkward angle. The show revolved around a loose narrative about two kids being swept up in a world of ‘imagination’. The storyline threaded together a series of unrelated and yet remarkably similar dance routines.
The children journeyed through the jungle where they were confronted by bear like creatures shimming to “I like to move it move it”. They evaded pirates and ended up on the bottom of the ocean where scores of jelly fish and sharks grooved away to the disco hit Working At the Car Wash. In keeping with the oceanic theme the Kindy class performing ‘Somewhere beyond the sea’ almost had an epic fail. The entire group of twenty simply stopped mid routine. The tension was unbearable for a moment or two before they rebooted and finished the number. The biggest laugh however came from a Year One class who were doing a disco version of the Oompa Loompa song. (Yes – such a thing exists). It took them several attempts to position themselves correctly before the act began. The shuffling about elicited whoops of laughter from the crowd and a mighty cheer once the music started up.
Finally 90 minutes passed and everybody emerged with their dignity largely intact (unlike 1981). I tip my hat to the school teachers. Getting young kids to dance in unison is like herding cats. Even with months of rehearsal they simply lack the coordination to move in time with 20 class mates. Additionally most people are not natural performers. The prospect of shaking groove thang in front of 700 parents is terrifying. The majority of the kids moved stiffly like footballers mouthing the national anthem. Around 5% relished the attention, played up to the audience and wiggled like their lives depended on it. Raw talent played no part in determining which children fell into which group. It’s a metaphor for life beyond the school ground.
The debrief continues at Chez Abulous with my girls requiring a deconstruction of their performances. ‘Mum. Did you see me?’, Mum was I the best in my class?’, ‘Who was the best in the class?’ The only answer is of course ‘You were beautiful darling. I loved it’. Meanwhile your soul is drenched in deep relief that you dont have to endure any more of this until next year.
School concerts haven’t they been going on long enough? Love or loathe?
* A bad play on Captain and Tennille song lyrics that anyone under the age of 40 probably wouldn’t get.