Sunday Morning ~ Singing in Blantyre

Sunday Morning ~ Singing in Blantyre

Gule ali yense akonda potsiriza. ~ Every dance is pleasing at the end.

~ Chewa proverb

May 19, 2024

Hi Everyone,

The Blantyre Music Society is a community group of amateur musicians, made up of both locals and expats, choir and orchestra. They perform concerts in December and May and last night I attended the May concert at a private primary school near me. I knew a few people in it and looked forward to an evening out. It was an earnest performance by people who like to make music. I took my seat in the school hall and read the program. It was short with an eclectic mix of classical, pop, and original music. I enjoy watching people perform, always a little envious of their talent and the fun they seem to be having. I saw the final number was Sing, an old Carpenters song that came out when I was a senior in high school, and I thought, hmmm…interesting choice.

In high school, I was part of a music group started by three young, artistic, energetic teachers who loved the performing arts, and Sing was our signature song. I was surprised at how emotional I became last night when the choir started singing it.  Hundreds of images paraded through my mind. Last night’s rendition was strained, to say the least, as they struggled to stay on key, but it still evoked images of myself in my little blue alto dress (sopranos wore red), dancing as we came on stage, singing Sing, feeling something close to joy. 

I wasn’t supposed to be in the group. I was a cheerleader and my father, tyrannically strict, told me I had a choice of being in this singing group or cheerleading. He would not allow me to do both. I loved being a cheerleader but desperately wanted to be in this singing group. All my friends were in it and I had a monstrous crush on the director. I didn’t spend long deciding what to do. I would do both and I’d sneak and lie to do so. It was just a matter of planning and plotting. I appealed to my mother, who was sorry for my plight, and she agreed not to turn me in. You may think it would have been more appropriate for her to confront my father and support me, but that’s because you didn’t know him. It was much easier to sneak. That way the whole family didn’t have to suffer. As I sat and listened to this song last night I thought of how hard I had to work for that experience. I thought of the times, returning from rehearsals, carefully opening the storm door, hold it until it clicked shut without a sound, tip toeing up the stairs skipping the second step because it squeaked. I felt not one iota of remorse for this at the time. Recalling it last evening I felt something like pride. It was an act of righteous rebellion, not for some greater good for the world, but for something that made me happy. Listening to the simple lyrics brought back a time in my life when I made choices about who I’d become and, still today, I think they were good choices. 

I wasn’t a performer. I was shy and insecure. But these three teachers exuded enthusiasm for the fun of it all and gave us a chance to experience it. They liked their job. They nurtured a confidence in us the bored band/ orchestra/ glee club director never could. Not that I was in the band or orchestra––I quit violin lessons in fifth grade when the class bully made fun of me––but glee club counted for a music credit and there were no tryouts. It was okay, but nothing like singing in the other group. That was pure, lighthearted, choreographed fun. Last night, listening to that simple song, watching the musicians struggle to stay on key, singing along to it, brought back moments of happiness in a confusing time of life. I felt successful. After our performance there was a photo in the newspaper and my disobedience was discovered, so I had to sit through a lecture about what a disappointment I was and was grounded. I can’t remember for how long, but I’m sure I snuck out. It wasn’t bad.

I’m grateful to those young teachers who bucked our crappy school system and made us feel like we meant something. It was so refreshing, especially since some of our male teachers made fun of girls in class then mocked us for crying. It was the 70’s. We knew what it was like to be considered less than the boys. We also learned what it felt like to have worth and which we preferred. We’re not going back.

Love to all,

Linda


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