green and purple

I'm still out here

I was reading the comments in one of poliphilo's recent entries, in which he mentioned that he had been in a school show but couldn't sing, and so stood in the back row and mimed the words.

I was bemused by how similar this was to a school experience of my own. In the fifth grade I decided to try out for the school glee club. Not because I loved music, not because I felt some great calling to the stage, not because I wanted to impress a girl (and considering it was glee club, it's not likely it was girls I would have impressed). I was 10 years old for Pete's sake. No, I just wanted to get out of class for an hour a day.

The tryouts were held in the school auditorium. Each student was made to stand in front of the stage, next to the piano, behind which sat the music teacher. For our tryout, each of us had to sing the National Anthem.

The Star Spangled Banner! She might as well ask us to sing a selection from the Götterdämmerung! They don't even sing the National Anthem live at ball games anymore. Except for Roseanne Barr, but unlike her, I was 10 years old and hadn't yet grown a pair.

Still, I gave it my all. I even knew the words. To the first chorus, anyway. How many 10 year olds can say that nowadays? I must have screeched like a blue jay with the whooping cough because out of the darkness at the back of the auditorium came a voice. "What in the name of Kate Smith was that?" it said.

I didn't know it then, but it was a middle-aged Simon Cowell, sitting in the center of the last row of those hard, wooden, fold down seats we had in the Brigham Elementary school auditorium. His hirsute arms were folded across his chest, and he was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt. He had less hair on his head than he has now.

"I mean, really. We don't have time for this." Simon continued. "You hit the first two notes. Oh say! and then rubbish. Good luck to you in sixth period. Get out"

Oh! The humiliation! My dreams dashed! Now how was I going to get out of that horrid class, terrorized by the six foot basilisk, Miss Counts? Hunched down in my desk, trying to avoid her baleful stare, while I gnawed splinters out of my No. 2 pencil, like some indigent beaver; the yellow Frito Bandito novelty eraser, with his thin lipped grin, mocking me, because he knew that I had worn the pencil's original eraser down to the metal base, such that any attempt at correction would produce a horrible squealing, a ripped sheet of notebook paper, and permanent black streaks like some terrible hit and run accident, all over my homework!

But I wasn't licked yet! Oh no! I did what any spoiled little snot would do in like circumstances. I moped, and I pouted, and I brooded, and I whined until my parents couldn't take it anymore, and talked the music teacher into letting me be in the glee club. The music teacher must have realized she wasn't getting the Vienna Boys Choir no matter what she did.

Time passed swiftly and, before I knew it, the school concert was upon us. Quite a program had been planned for the evening, with hits like Joy to the World and The Candy Man and Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head. The finale was I've Been Everywhere, Man, by Johnny Cash.

The other songs had been a breeze to learn. Even if I sounded like an accordion that had been assassinated, gang-land style, with two caps in the back of the head, I knew the words. But old Johnny was giving me trouble. All those cities! I couldn't remember them, and I had to sing them so fast! Night after night, I stood in my bedroom, dead center on my blue rug, which was shaped like a giant capsule of Strattera, the purple, mimeographed lyrics of I've Been Everywhere held three inches from my nose so I could smell them, but those towns and burgs and villes were all mashed together in my noodle. I would have to fake it.

Concert night, and there we all stood in our red turtlenecks. I was on the highest tier, at the back, stage left, fearful of falling over backward and dreadfully exposed. Staring into a sea of faces, which I thought were all staring back at me. Ye gods in hemlock! How would I survive the mortification of not knowing I've Been Everywhere.?

We weaved back and forth through Joy to the World (which included a big cardboard cutout frog, if memory serves), did jazz hands for The Candy Man, and I did my very best B.J. Thomas on Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head. But the time had arrived. Here it came! Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota. That was all I remembered! I started clacking my jaws like some insane ventriloquist's dummy. A red turtlenecked nutcracker with bangs and Buster Browns. Oh it was awful!

And then I saw her. My third grade teacher. Mrs. Virginia Lou Davis, looking right at me and grinning fixedly. Before I knew it, the song was over. I pantomimed wiping sweat from my brow and gave a phew!. Mrs. Virginia Lou Davis pantomimed right back. The woman was a saint. She must have kept a pitcher of mint juleps in her desk to put up with us.

That was it. Glee club was done. I never sang in public again after that day. Consider yourselves lucky.
  • Current Mood: absurd
You're here! O, Mr. Of Doom! I was so worried!


Your elementary choir memories are so vivid. As a former elementary school teacher, i must inform you that it was not mint juleps, but gin.
did jazz hands for The Candy Man

I would pay good money for a picture of that :P