The children's string orchestra I conduct had two concerts over the past two days. They played a nice arrangement of Ash Grove and a fun arrangement of Can Can. The concerts, I suppose you could say, marked my "debut" as a conductor. (My only prior conducting experience was in a course in college.)
I have really enjoyed directing this group, and I've learned a lot about how children and rhythm often don't go well together without a lot of hard work! On Sunday I also learned that sometimes even with four months of hard work, you can still encounter difficulties when mixing young children and rhythm. In the first of the two concert performances, the cellos and first violins actually pulled so far apart during the first ten measures that I had to stop the ensemble and have them start again from the beginning. Of course I beamed at them all reassuringly as if this were the most normal thing imaginable, and the first attempt had been a mere warm-up. (Inside I was dying of embarassment and desperately praying that we could make it through the piece with a fresh start!) We started again and made it through, with repeats and first and second endings and dotted rhythms and eighth notes and everything! There was another slight rhythmic problem near the end; this time I just kept going and hoped the audience wouldn't know that the first and second violins were supposed to be together during those two measures, not echoing each other.
The Can Can, being a relatively simple piece for rhythm, went noticeably more smoothly.
The good news is that third and fourth graders can do no wrong in the eyes of an audience. As I raised my hands for the children to stand when they finished playing, we enjoyed a roar of applause and encouraging cheers as we bowed together. Who cares if the cellos can't count or the first violins were dragging the tempo? They are all just so cute!
The second concert, held yesterday afternoon at a senior center, went a bit better - no stops and re-starts were required. Again, the audience (a room full of appreciative senior citizens) loved seeing and hearing the kids play.
I'm really going to miss those kids over the summer. I love that job!