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My Gareth Malone Moment20 June 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
He is a young man with a hairdo that cannot get ruffled. The same is true for my own hair but this would lead to a totally different story. Last Thursday the BBC broadcasted the first episode of Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne. In this programme Gareth Malone converts children who have only a very vague idea about what opera entails – ‘singing fat ladies’ – into a choir that will take part in the opera Knight Crew. This makes me go weak at the knees.
I have also seen all episodes of The Choir. In it Gareth persuaded the most unlikely individuals to sing. OK, I do realise that much of what happens on TV is stage-managed, but for some reason I can really believe in Gareth.
This time he set himself an even more exacting task: the children whom he has been coaching are going to audition for the world famous Glyndebourne Opera. The children all acted tough but when they had to audition their voices faltered. A rather shy black girl retreated into her shell completely; however Gareth soon got her going again.
I never cry in public. I am, of course, quite unlike the North Korean footballer who hears his National Anthem being played at the World Cup. In spite of this I was very moved when watching Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne. Luckily, I was alone.
This reminds me of my own Gareth Malone moment which happened about two weeks ago. I had been asked to supervise the children’s jury at a Children’s Art Festival in my home town. The children’s task was to write reviews about the performances aimed at and acted out by children.
In the past I have ran quite a few creative writing workshops, including one for a female Lion’s Club, ‘forty young ladies who were about to turn forty’, and another for a group of psychiatric patients, which took place in an attic. One of the participants in the latter group announced: ‘I have a notebook in which I record all dirty words from the soaps.’ However, managing the children’s jury was a far greater challenge.
I accompanied the children for eleven hours and during this time we saw three performances. I found it remarkable that children aged nine to twelve can seem to act almost like adults one moment only to collapse in giggles the next.
‘Summarise the Robin Hood performance’, was my exercise. Reply from Sara, aged 9: ‘A guy who helps poor people. But it was the first time I had to yawn.’
She was right: Robin Hood was a bit below par compared to the other two performances. Actually it reminded me very much of the Christmas performance in the film Love Actually. In our case, the knights wore tubes made of silver painted cardboard on their heads; these were supposed to be helmets though they looked more like chimneys.
Someone managed to hit one of the extras quite forcefully on one of his ears. Three other extras all kitted out in ‘chimneys’ immediately came to his aid. This was actually quite touching. When after this performance the musical class took centre stage it gave me goose bumps all over.
At regularly intervals I gave the children permission to run wild in the garden of the arts education company; moreover during the day there was a constant supply of lemonade, chocolate biscuits and marshmallows.
When I lit another cigar in the garden Lisa remarked concerned: ‘You shouldn’t smoke a lot of cigars, it is bad.’ Sara came to the rescue: ‘My grandfather smokes too and he is 75.’ Delightful children.
The next evening featured the result of the children’s jury and I appeared with ‘my six children’ on stage. Even Bogi, who strictly speaking didn’t dare to join us, had decided to take his place in the line up. I had ordered them according to height and in turn they delivered quotes from the jury.
They performed magnificently. It made me feel like Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music but I spared the public a rendering of Edelweiss.
Back at home I reflected: if I can persuade nine to twelve years old to write properly then nothing is impossible.
Many western football clubs are involved in founding football academies in Africa. Only a selected few youngsters will make it to professional level. What a waste of talent! They should be introduced to creative writing, acting and opera.
Well, of course, the same applies to children in the western world. Because of an excessive emphasis on just tennis, hockey or football, many children are increasingly exposed to a monoculture.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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