We’re right in the midst of Christmas performance season and I love it. My kids do a fair few – from a five minute presentation at the end of a dance class to a prestigious concert in a big, posh venue. In the hustle and bustle of real life with a load of Christmas pressure, it’s another thing to fit in, but it’s well worth it.
My son’s secondary school does a big concert at the town hall every year. This is a whole school event, with only the musicians and singers taking part. I’m not a lover of classical music, but I can’t help but be impressed by the skill of those young people and overawed by the beauty of the music. It’s not the kind of entertainment I’m used to, but it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone and experience something new.
My son plays violin. He’s pretty good at it. He’s not your average violin player. For one thing, he’s a boy. For another, he doesn’t come from a musical family. When the letter came home in year 3 asking if he wanted to play the violin, I hesitated just before chucking it in the recycling box: ‘You don’t want to play violin, do you?’. I was stunned when he said he did. And even more stunned when he kept going. He’s set a good example to his brother and sister, so now we have a guitar player and another little violinist. I’m not sure they would have done music without their brother’s influence.
The concert showed me what a good school my son goes to. It’s not a grammar school (which we hope both of the others will go to), but there’s clearly some hard-working and high achieving kids there. Let’s be honest, playing a classical musical instrument as a teenager is pretty geeky (and not in a geek chic kind of way, in a proper old-fashioned geek way), so it’s brilliant that these kids have carried on with their music and there is clearly a culture which encourages it.
My son played near the start of the show. He slouched onto the stage in the way only he can – shirt untucked, looking slightly embarrassed. The only boy in the junior orchestra. Daddy looked a bit disappointed in the untucked shirt, but I didn’t mind. That’s my boy, that’s just the way he is. He wouldn’t be him if he had his shirt tucked in. I sat there beaming like a loon and bursting with pride at my little, scruffy boy up there on the stage, surrounded by girls, but not bothered about it.
Then he came back on with the junior string group. There are a couple of boys in year 7 who play violin, so he wasn’t alone this time. He played so confidently and so well. My husband is still amazed at how good he is. Of course he’s good! He’s been playing for years and he’s passed his grade 2. They wouldn’t let him up on the stage if he couldn’t cut it.
Then some older kids came on and the full string group played Little Mix’s Wings. I’ve heard him playing it at home on his own and it sounds pretty good, but it sounded brilliant with a big group of them. The audience were tapping their toes along (and apparently both the headteacher and the head boy learned something new – the existence of Little Mix!).
Just before the interval, there was a massive bonus – primary school choirs singing Mary’s Boy Child. Including our primary school – and my daughter. The choirs sat at the back throughout the (awesome) samba band performance and my daughter sat there smiling her beautiful big grin at us all. It was so lovely to see her. Then they moved the kids forward to sing – and we couldn’t see her. Grrrr! They didn’t mix the schools up, so rather than do the logical thing of putting year 3s at the front, she was behind year 6s from another school, so we couldn’t see her. Nor could any parents of any other kids not on the front line.
The second half of the concert was really something to aspire to. This is where the music got really good, with a full orchestra. This showed my son and I how far he can go and how much he can achieve. These kids were clearly talented and had worked very hard on their music. Hopefully by year 10, my son will be sitting with them, playing his violin. And when he does, I will be so proud of him.
The event was compered by the head boy and girl. The head girl and the only solo musician on the stage share my daughter’s name, which is not an overly popular name. It is clearly the perfect name for middle-class high achievers!