Chorfreizeit, or the choir field trip in Schlitz, Germany, was a grand success. Two days of eight-hour rehearsals followed by a quick 2 hour wrap-up rehearsal on the third morning, and I found myself with more than a dozen new songs stuck in my head. The crazy thing is is that the kids (again, these are students between 5th – 10th grade) actually enjoy memorizing so many songs, more than half of which are in English. The main piece we worked on was a cantata of Christmas songs we’ll be performing for a church service in mid December, for which I apparently am co-directing…not sure how that happened, but there are 3 choir teachers and the main choir director decided I’m going to be in charge of the mezzo voices when the songs we sing have four parts. I have very little formal training when it comes to reading/playing music and absolutely no formal voice training, so it was kind of touch-and-go when learning the ropes to all of that. The kids trust me though, and we’ll definitely be able to pull it off.
In addition to the Christmas concert we’ll also be performing for the rest of the school, which takes me back to my elementary/middle school choir days… Anyway, here’s a list of the pieces we’ll be singing just to give you an idea. I’m sure those of you who are American will recognize many of the English songs!
–Down to the river to pray (just try to imagine the hilarity of hearing what should be gospel sung by 75 Germans…yeah…)
-You’ll be in my heart (Phil Collins)
–Love may be
–Ain’t she sweet
-Caresse sur l’ocean
–Angels watching over me
-Mary’s boy child
-When a child is born
-Merry Christmas Everyone
-Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
-Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
-Gottes Sohn kommt zur Welt – halleluja
-Engel lassen laut erschallen (you’ll probably know this as Angels we have heard on high but we’re singing the French version, Les anges dans nos campagnes)
-Inmitten der Nacht: 14-page collection of songs ranging from lyrics and melodies written by Martin Luther himself to 15th and 16th century Latin texts…very churchy stuff indeed.
Like I said, the three days were full of musical goodness, topped off with an impromptu talent show on the second night (photos here). The kids put together about 15 different acts just to show their fellow students what they could do; most of it consisted of skits, songs, and playing the guitar/piano, but a few of the acts were more off the beaten path… If you think I could pass up an opportunity to teach salsa to a whole new lot of minions, you’re crazy. I worked secretly with two fifth grade girls, Nina and Fiona, to teach them the basic salsa step, the girl’s underarm turn, and the cross-body lead. All I had to do was plug in my iPod to the excellent sound system, and we had a mini dance party in no time! I led the two of them, then led them each individually, and then Fiona led Nina. (Side note, as I was writing that sentence, I definitely had to Google the conjugation for the past participle of “to lead”. English is floating out of my head — oh noes). Anyway, the cuteness was almost unbearable. Then, in an act of slight madness, I wrapped up the talent show by singing Hey there Delilah accompanied on guitar by a 9th grader named Valentin and my colleague, Christopher.
After the show was over, I held a beginners salsa lesson (in German! gah, still working on learning dance vocabulary) for which about 40 of the 75 kids came. It was a really nice opportunity to solidify in their minds the fact that I am actually a human being, not just a random lady who shows up at school and speaks some foreign language at them. A lot of them are seriously confused as to if they should be using the formal “Sie” verb form or the informal “du” form with me now…I’ve simply told them not to call me “Frau Kern”, because 1) it sounds super old (helloooo that was my grandmother), 2) if you say my last name the way it’s supposed to be said, I come off as suuuper German and 3) I’m closer in age to some of the students than to any of my coworkers. Most of them now just end up calling me by my first name and still using the formal verb form, which works for me. I’m happy that my position as an assistant (and the fact that I never give out grades) allows me a certain freedom with these sorts of cultural things…it’s similar to when I was a House Fellow (read: R.A.) at UW-Madison…I’d rather be primarily seen as a friend and resource, and only secondarily as a disciplinary/authority figure. It makes for more fun in the end.
So what’s up next, you ask? Well, I’ll be flying home for Christmas in less than a month (hold up, WHAT? Bah! Where did those four months go?!?). Yeah, bit strange, that. I think that might throw a wrench in my development over here, since it’s going to be a trip that is both an extremely nice luxury and also bitter-sweet…perspective, perspective. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just keep on keeping on. Tutoring on the side is still proving to be lucrative, parties are being partied, the psychology course is going swimmingly, Harry Potter 7.1 was brilliant, the Christmas season is about to start. Right, about that — if you haven’t caught on, Germans don’t have Thanksgiving, but I’ll be introducing my eighth graders to cornbread and pumpkin pie on Wednesday, followed by a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings on Thursday night with my American friends. Mmmmmm thankfulness. Tastes good, doesn’t it?