Ahoy!

HMS Pinafore is about to sail, and she is indeed “a saucy beauty”

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“We sail the ocean blue,
And our saucy ship’s a beauty;
We’re sober men and true,
And attentive to our duty…”

It is aboard that trusty, much-loved vessel that I am about to embark on one of the busiest weeks of my school year. Its the week in which the the last fifteen months’ worth of planning, preparing, auditioning, casting, decision-making, organising myriad details, and the rehearsals of the past three months come together and appear on stage as the annual school musical.

This year we’re doing Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. We have a cast of about 45 students who range from 12 to 18 years old. Others of our students have been trained in sound and lighting, backstage management, while still others have helped to create and prepare the set.

It’s a wonderful show that tells a ridiculous story beautifully. I enjoy the moments of pathos, but also the delightful comic moments in which my actors really shine.

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The soloists are amazing, the chorus sounds fantastic, the dance moves are fabulous and the costumes are beautiful. The orchestra’s performance alone is worth more than the price of the ticket. When all of those amazing ingredients come together, the outcome is incredible.

I know this week will be exhausting, but it will also be exhilarating.

I’ll be back to my usual blogging and social media self after the week is done and I’ve had a good sleep. Until then, say a prayer for me. Or… just send coffee.

Songs and Poetry

Songs and Poetry: Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

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In an earlier post, I referred to song lyrics as being a form of poetry.

There are many songwriters who write deeply poetic songs. Elton John and Bernie Taupin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Billy Joel— they are among the greats. Today, singer/songwriters like Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry are among the artists whose songs contain some incredibly powerful poetry.

While it might be fun to come up with more examples, I have no desire to try to list them all – I don’t even think that’s really possible. Chances are, some who make my list might not be included in yours. I just named a few to get you thinking.

While many songs rely on a catchy hook or a beat that makes people want to dance, it’s the poetry of others that gives them the power to move a person emotionally, or to profoundly affect someone’s thoughts and actions.

Consider the influence John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ had on an entire generation. Similarly, Simon & Garfunkel touched hearts and lives worldwide with the soaring power of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, while the poignant emotion of Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind” or “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” is still hard to resist.

I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but poetic songs seem to attach themselves to part of my soul and remain there, indelible and timeless.

This line of thinking led me to trying to work out which song contains my favourite “song poetry”. That’s actually a really tough question, so I decided I’d listen to a few of my favourites and try to narrow it down.
A week later, I think I have an answer. (Disclaimer: this answer is likely to change at any moment.)

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This song is a brilliant extended metaphor about identity and finding one’s place in the world. The contrast between a rock or an island with the vulnerability of being human, and the paradox of isolation being a form of sanctuary, are ideas which should be jarring, yet they are delivered with such finesse that we’re left thinking, “I totally get that!” They’re ideas and images we all understand, and the poet communicates uses a depth of emotion and human experience to say things that many other people could never bring themselves to verbalise.

The clincher for me is the final verse. “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.” That’s exactly what I do! I retreat into fictional worlds. I write stories and poems that help me to deal with life. I use poetry to crystallise my thoughts and feelings, and use my writing to communicate what it’s hard to say any other way.

As I was reflecting on that final verse, a poem I wrote last year came to mind. I’m not suggesting that I think I’m as good as Paul Simon, but it does explore similar ideas of hiding behind – or within – the books and words I have written.

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It was written during a time of great personal conflict and turbulence, and expresses the refuge I found in my writing. In different poems written during this period, I portrayed myself at different times as a fighter, as a hostage, and as a traveler. At no time did I portray myself as willing to surrender to the storm that raged around me, nor to anything else that tried to do me in. In my writing, I was strong. I was safe.

When I went back to read that poem as part of the process of writing this post, I was stunned to discover the similarity of the ideas to those explored by Paul Simon, even though my poem was neither based on nor drawn from his lyrics.

I was also confronted by the warning of the last two lines. I have to take care when I feel or experience something, or when I write something powerful, that I can’t afford to unpack and live there. I still have to live my life and be who I am, and I still have to deal with whatever life throws at me.

After all, I am neither a rock nor an island, no matter how much I might sometimes wish I were.


‘Safe’ is published in my book, ‘The Passing Of The Night’.

 

 

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There’s no business like show business!

It’s wonderful to be able to honestly say that the show was spectacular.

Every year, this week is one of the busiest of my teaching year. It’s right up there with report writing in terms of stress, but it’s much more enjoyable.

It’s Production Week.
I’m the director/producer of my school’s musical each year, and this is the week where we hit the stage and everyone is wowed by the students’ performances.

The weeks leading up to the show have been demanding. There has been fear, elation, exhaustion, laryngitis, delight, and excitement in fairly equal proportions. Even so, there has been an overriding confidence – at least, most of the time – that the show would be great.

In every show we do, the kids are always amazing, and I’m always proud.
But during the first performance of ‘Les Miserables – School Edition’ last Friday night, I was so proud that I cried. For someone who doesn’t cry much, that says a lot.

It’s wonderful to be able to honestly say that the show was spectacular.

In saying that, I don’t mean to brag. This has been a group effort by singers, actors, orchestra, sound and lighting crew, set construction teams, backstage crew, parents sewing costumes, hair & makeup teams, vocal coaches, musical director and myself. A show like this doesn’t happen without every part of the machine running.

Most of you reading this won’t get a chance to see the show, so here’s a little article from today’s Warrnambool Standard, complete with a totally-unrehearsed-for video that shows you how talented, and how delightfully funny, my students are.

It’s no wonder I’m proud. They’re fabulous.

Bohemian Ear Worms.

I’ve had ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ playing on the BrainPod every  single day, often for hours at a stretch. 

It’s a conspiracy. 

My Year 12 English class is reading and studying ‘Life of Galileo’, so every time someone says the name, I hear those two different voices singing “Galileo!” … “Galileo!” … “Galileo!” … “Galileo Figaro!” and it just plays on from there. 

When I wake up in the mornings, it has usually been replaced by another tune. That is, until I get into the car and head to work. 

My favourite radio station has a traffic reporter named Charles Miller. That, apparently, is close enough to hear “CharlesMiller NOOOOO! We will not let you go!” which gets the whole thing playing again in a seemingly endless loop. 

This is what my life has become. 

Karma and 90s music. 

Tonight I did a terrible thing. 

A friend and I were discussing a relationship breakup and, in response to a question, the first thing that came to mind was a lyric from a Mariah Carey song.  The fact that I initially thought it might have been Whitney Houston doesn’t absolve me from quoting it to her. 

My brainPod is generally rather genius at pulling up lyrics from songs in response to random words and actions, but even I was shocked at the cruelty of my memory in dredging that up. I felt kind of bad for inflicting the video clip on her, too. 

Some kind of friend I am. Thankfully, we were both able to laugh about it. 

Karma had the last laugh, though. 

Knowing I have to get up early for work, Karma waited until I was about to drift off and then she made Tony Delroy, host of the radio program I always listen to, play the theme song from Titanic. 

Freakin‘ Celine Dion.  

I cannot stand her. As much as I love Canada, and as much as I don’t want to offend anyone who loves her, I think she’s bloody dreadful. 

I heard the first few notes of the flute and groaned, “Kill me now!” I turned the volume right down but it was too late. The damage was done. 

And here I am, wide awKe and blogging about it instead of sleeping.

Karma is, indeed, a bitch, but at least she has a sense of humour. 


 

Singing With The Radio.

This morning as we were driving, the radio played Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. By the time we got to “I’m crying icicles instead of tears” all three of us in the car – plus the one on Skype – were singing along.

We discussed the idea that there are some songs that it’s almost compulsory that people should sing along with. They are classic, infectious songs that unite generations and have stood the test of time.

Is this list something that will grow much, or is there an elite set of songs that really are a step above all the others?
Feel free to suggest one or two of your favourites if you wish.

Songs Everyone Should Automatically Sing Along With:

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad – Meatloaf
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Dancing Queen – ABBA
Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams
Hotel California – The Eagles
American Pie – Don McLean
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
Hey Jude – The Beatles
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
It’s A Long Way To The Top – AC/DC
I’m Gonna Be [500 Miles] – The Proclaimers
Piano Man – Billy Joel
Imagine – John Lennon
Love Shack – The B-52s