The house is alive with the sound of “Do-Re-Mi”, “so long farewell auf wiedersehen” and even the voice of the lonely goatherd: “lay-ee o-dl layee o-dl-o”!
If you’ve read my last post, then you’ll know that on Monday, our daughter will be auditioning for the role of Marta in Andrew Lloyd Webbers’s Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Marta is the second youngest of the Von Trapp children and our daughter actually looks very similar to the original movie version.
While looking the part and being the right height is all well and good, that’s just the beginning. The first stage of the audition process is singing. If she makes it through, then she’ll be back on Wednesday for the dance and drama auditions.
So, she needs to be able to sing and sing well. Even if she doesn’t get the part, we still want her to give a respectable performance, which reinforces her love of singing and doesn’t see her running for the hills. After all, we are all quite philosophical about her chances of getting the role.
However, when I mentioned that the audition was a competition and she said she was just doing it “for fun”, while this was good in a way, I also reminded her that getting to the audition was going to be an effort and she needed to take it seriously.
This was when the fun began.
Rewinding to Sunday, I decided that practicing on the keyboard would help etch in the notes without wearing out her voice. She has had trouble with vocal nodules and so we’re handling her voice with kid gloves. Naturally, we don’t want her to burn out beforehand.
Also, I have only recently come to appreciate that learning to sing is as much about training your ears and, of course, your breathing, as it is to use your voice and I was sure playing the songs on the keyboard would really help develop her ear.
However, just because I’d made these realisations, that doesn’t mean my daughter was on board.
Indeed, she wasn’t even at the bus stop.
I also wanted to see if she could learn to read music in time. We’ve had multiple half-baked attempts in the past but the audition swung me into action. You see my mother accompanies a singer and once he learnt to read music, it really improved his voice. It was definitely worth a shot.
So, armed with this awareness and the same sort of determination which encouraged my daughter to apply for the role in the first place, I transformed myself into a mean and nasty tiger parent and prepared for battle.
However, despite my best intentions, things back fire big time around here and our place is a veritable Faulty Towers. Somehow, things just don’t seem to run like clockwork and quickly blow-up in my face.
You could say this makes me a hero. After all, heroes need a quest, come up against obstacles and have the inevitable car chase before it all comes good at the end.
However, I don’t feel like the all-conquering hero. I’m much more of a Paddington Bear and should either have a sign saying: “Please Take Care of This Bear” or “Warning! Bear about to self-destruct!”
In the case of preparing for the audition, the drama all centred on the piano. Our current piano is old and out of tune. I’ve actually given it away but they can’t seem to pick it up and time’s dragged on so we still haven’t moved up my mother’s Yamaha upright, which would be absolutely perfect right now. As far as I’m concerned, you need a piano to sing well. You need to know and feel those notes. I might be a bit rigid but I come from a family of seriously gifted pianists, myself excluded.
As usual, as much as we tried to have all our ducks lined up, someone must’ve thrown a rock at them because all our good intentions scatter to the four winds and have a very long, circuitous journey home. That’s if they ever come back!
Yet, we persevered.
My daughter has a pretty good keyboard and I thought that would do the job.
At least, it would if we could find the power cable.
Unfortunately, that was buried underneath layers and layers of “filing” in the office. I had been somewhat on top of this never-ending tide of clutter but things came up and I found it all too easy to ignore it until it gave birth. Now, the mess is constantly breeding like over-fertile rabbits and will soon start flying out through the chimney!
So, when it came to the piano front, you could say we were well and truly “stonkered” (that’s a great word plucked from my Dad’s vernacular).
Take 2 or is this Take 3?
So, without a power cable, I had to resort to a roll-up keyboard mat thingy, which I’d bought at a fete. I’d thought it was quite clever at the time and used it to teach the kids some basic keyboard skills but it was hardly the tool for this job. It seemed to play every note twice and was quite annoying.
I started to think about all those kids with the perfect lives yet again and were already accomplished on the piano and felt so inadequate. Yet, at least, I was trying.
Next, I had to get Miss to actually sit down at the keyboard. This process was like trying to catch and restrain a wild brumby. She couldn’t see what singing had to do with playing the keyboard. I tried explaining that singers are usually accompanied on the piano but that didn’t register…even when I reminded her that Grandma accompanies a singer on the piano. I asked her if she was the only singer who didn’t need piano accompaniment. When that didn’t work, I even resorted to the:
“How old are you? “
“I am 46. Do you think I might know something you don’t know?”
Humph. She was in a thunderous mood with mighty bolts of lightning flying between furrowed eyebrows. I didn’t need to be Einstein to see all these arguments were going nowhere and yet I didn’t give up. Boldly marching where angels fear to tread, I persevered:
“There’s what you know. What you know you don’t know but over here there’s what you don’t know you don’t know and this is what you have to watch out for. Just because you don’t know what you don’t know, that doesn’t mean other people don’t know what you don’t know. “
I know it made sense to me but to her young ears, it must have been gibberish. I’d finally crossed that line into madness.
I was stumbling for words. Remember that I have a severe lung infection and all of these words are being forced out in between violent coughing spasms. I could see some things which would really improve her chances but she just couldn’t see the same picture. She was only 9 and I couldn’t expect her to have walked in my shoes but why couldn’t she recognise hard won pearls of wisdom when she heard them? Why wouldn’t she open up? The keyboard remained a square peg. It just didn’t fit into her understanding of singing, dancing and drama and she wanted to evict it completely.
However, for every Drama Princess, there is also a Drama Queen!
Or, perhaps all that ranting and raving finally made a bit of sense. At last, I sensed some microscopic progress. That maybe, just maybe, I was starting to get a nibble, even if I didn’t have a bite.
The funny thing was that as frustrating as she was, I saw a mirror image of myself as a young child when my mother was trying to teach me the piano. I remember sitting at that baby grand swinging my legs from the stool and hating it. I wanted to destroy it. Indeed, I think I might even have scratched writing onto the ivories. ..just maybe. I’d fought my own mother with the same fierce intensity but I wasn’t going to capitulate. This process was all too much like childbirth. You don’t want to go through the pain but at the end, there’s your beautiful, little bundle of joy. Indeed, I continued to learn the piano with my own teacher until I was around grade 6 so I wasn’t a lost cause after all.
I went on and ordered the sheet music online and started writing it out for her so she could practice it and we were slowly, ever so slowly making progress.
Then, we found the power cable for the keyboard and we were in business. I started practicing the songs, scraping the rust off years of piano neglect.
Yet again, I marvelled at how the dreams and visions of my children have swept me right out of my comfort zone, learning new skills or dusting off old ones. They have stretched and pulled me in so many different directions that I’ve almost become flexible. Quite an achievement really as it’s all too easy to get set in your ways and limit yourself to what you love and know best.
After all, I could easily just write all day every day.
And then just when I thought this whole drama was never going to reach Act IV, the battle is over and she’s been at the keyboard playing the songs one handed from my notes. She is even playing C Major scale two octaves one-handed and learning to move “Sneaky Tom” (her thumb) underneath without detection. I also taught her that her hand was a fairy table and she had to hold her hand properly or their tea set would go flying. My much-loved piano teacher taught me that and now I passed it onto Miss and smiled. She was only just young enough to still appreciate it.
So our preparations continue.
Saturday night, Geoff and the kids are off camping in the Scout Hall overnight for Father’s Day and on Sunday they’ll be teaching him how to catch a fish.
This will be a good break from her musical practice and I kind of like the idea that she’ll be spending her weekend in between her musical theatre class and being out on the water fishing, kayaking, roasting marshmallows round a campfire, camping and simply being a knock-about kid.
After all, she’s not only auditioning for a children’s part. She’s still a child.