The universe has been telling me that it's time to remind people of Show-Stoppers for All.
Back in 1993, I put out a new edition of Scribbles that included my proposal for making big production music and dance numbers part of our daily life. Thirteen years later, I'd all but forgotten the idea.
But then, I got an email from Cece. Back in '93, Cece was the one Scribbles subscriber who really got into Show-Stoppers for All. She told me she'd been handing out photocopies of it. (I'm ashamed to say that I worried about my intellectual property rights back then and thought about telling her she was violating my copyright.) In her July email, she told me about musical things she was doing with her elementary school students:
We sing and dance a lot at school. I do not hold back when singing "Mother Goony Bird" or "The Wishy-Washy Washerwoman." Very few of the kids can resist joining in.
One of my own innovations that I love to do is "dancing the rhythm cards". There is a set of about 35 cards with 4-beat note patterns on them. Sometimes we go through them and clap them, sometimes we go through them and count them, but as I got familiar with the cards I discovered that I could hold them in my own mind and do movement with them in mind.
I usually do a rhythm twice, the first time without verbalizing anything. They try to repeat what I do, and then I say what I'm doing as I do it again. "Knees, shoulders, stomp-stomp-stomp." And they repeat. So our class is very easy to teach dances to, with that foundation.
The next reminder was coming across a link to Reach: A Lecture Musical on YouTube:
Reach is wonderful. But imagine if everyone in the class had jumped up and started singing along.
I attended two performances at the NAC last week: John Prine on Tuesday night and Rossini's opera of the Barber of Seville on Wednesday. Both shows were terrific.
A fellow named Dan Reeder opened for Prine. He had a collection of songs that were oddly effective and pleasing. He had the whole audience singing along to one where the only lyrics were "I've got all the f----ing work I need".
I was reminded that repetition goes well with music again the next night at the Barber of Seville. With all the repeated lyrics you only have to glance at the surtitles now and then.
Of course, Figaro's big solo near the beginning was the best part, but like most operas, I always loved it when the chorus was on stage and everyone was singing. (Especially this time because John Burns was in the chorus! Remind me to call him up and ask him how he got the gig.)
Getting back to Show Stoppers for All, I realize now that my original article emphasized the wrong thing. Rather than starting with how we'd set limits on the music so that it didn't disrupt our lives too much, I should have focussed on how we bring about the cultural revolution. Here's what we need:
- People who start singing about what's happening. For instance, when I got back to the office from my settlement conference today, I could have just started singing something like "it went great, it went swell, the judge stayed the action, the judge stayed the action, the judge stayed the action, he gave them sixty days, only sixty days, to amend their claim, and if they should fail to, I believe they will fail to, you know what we can do..."
- People who spontaneously join in when others start singing. Yes, when I started singing, rather than look at me like I'm a kook, the others in the office could have joined in, sure they wouldn't have known what I'd sing, but a couple of them could have softly accompanied by going "it went great, it went swell," a few times, and then "sixty days, sixty days" and then when I reached the end, we'd all sing together "we can move for dismissal! Yes, we can move for dismissal!"
[Just in case you read #1 too fast, I did not in fact start singing when I returned to the office today from the settlement conference. But, seriously, it would have been appropriate.]