Christmas

Tree

I’m not the biggest fan of the Christmas season. Every year after Remembrance Day it seems, all of the Christmas items appear in stores. Lights go up, trees are decorated and presents are purchased. Sometimes it seems like there is a lot of pressure put on material goods – lots of shoppers at the malls, money spent on items. When I was a kid, I loved waking up and opening presents. It was nice to receive toys or movies and games. It seems like Christmas has lost its meaning. As I get older, it is nice to be around family and friends and to spend time together. Last year, my family went over to my aunt’s house, we had dinner together and did a Chinese gift exchange with items from the dollar store. It was just a fun evening – lots of laughter and catching up with one another.

Less about material goods and money and more about friends and family. 

Last year also, I was completing internship in Yorkton. The theme for our Christmas concert was Christmas Around the World – each class sang songs from different countries around the world. It was a beautiful evening that ended with the story of Jesus’ birth which was acted out by the grade eight students. Tonight I went back to the school I interned out and attended the concert. This year, the songs were centered around the story of Jesus’ birth – carols like I Saw Three ShipsAway in a Manger, Joy to the World and many more. There was once again the enactment of Jesus’s birth. This school is a dual track French Immersion School – there are English and French classes for grades one through eight.

The English and French classes for each grade were paired together and the songs were sung in both English and French – it was absolutely beautiful. It is truly a wonderful thing where we have schools in Saskatchewan and in Canada that teach French Immersion Programs. The teachers are so dedicated and passionate about the French language and the students are eager to learn. It’s great to see and to hear! I’m not an immersion teacher myself, but I definitely respect those who are!

Here is the grade 1 classes singing Away in a Manger:

 

The evening featured singing, dancing and various musical instruments being played by the students. Each grade performed their song, and then the rest of the school would join in for a verse or two or they would all sing a song together, like at the end when they closed the concert with We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Check out I Saw Three Ships – Students used black lights and black light paint – very cool.

 

I love this part about Christmas too – understanding the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus and keeping “Christ” in Christmas.

The students, staff and the community came together and shared an evening in song and the Christmas story.

Photo1  Photo2

Happy Holidays!

 

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Waka

Waka” – a performance by the dance group Black Grace

Direct from a sell-out tour of Germany, Black Grace returns to Aotearoa to present a compelling new work, Waka, by internationally celebrated choreographer Neil Ieremia.

“Powerfully elegant and possessed of technical finesse of almost archaic rawness.” Nahe-Zeitung, Germany 2012

Exploring the idea of a raft as a metaphor for hope, Waka is inspired in part by “The Raft,” video installation by Bill Viola, as well as a response to “The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand” by Louis J. Steele and Charles F. Goldie 1898, influenced by Theodore Géricault’s famous ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ depicting the terror of a shipwreck.

“Intensive dance imagery – a powerful demonstration of strength and battle readiness.” Mainpost, Schweinfurt, Germany 2012. –

Last night, this group performed at the University of Waikato.

The dancers performed for an hour and through that time, it seemed like they never stopped moving. The dances were quite intense and you could see beads of sweat dripping off the dancers. The performance told a story and made you think – there was a lot of symbolism present.

I enjoyed the performance very much. One aspect that I though was unique was the use of multimedia and data projectors. Aside from the music, the dancers used a fabric sheet as a screen for a video and they also used the human body as a screen showing video projected on the backs of dancers.

 

Music Prayer

Every year at final band concerts from when I was in grades 6-12 and even when I go back to listen to concerts today, the performance always starts off with a prayer that I wanted to share with you:

Heavenly Father,
You have given us ears to hear sound
And imagination to combine these sounds in harmony; 
You have given us instruments to play on
And musicians to lead us.

We thank You for these gifts.
By our music we wish to show our gratitude
And to praise and thank You for Your goodness.
We make our prayer through our Lord, Jesus Christ 
Who sang His song over two thousand years ago,

And has made it re-echo in the hearts of man….
Now and forever.

Amen. 

 

Band Concerts

Last night I went back to the high school I used to attend for a band concert. Every year, the Regina Catholic Schools Band Association hosts a festival – “Band Days”.  During this all band students are encouraged to play a solo or in an ensemble. There are different class groups ranging from beginners – grade 6 students to class A – senior high school students. This year, there were close to 800 solos and 120 ensembles performed over the course of 5 days. There is also an opportunity for students to be selected by their band teachers to participate in the Select Grade 7/8 Band or the High School Honour Band. I remember playing solos and ensembles and having the privilege to play in the Select Bands and the Honour Bands when I was in elementary and high school.

Attending the concert brought back a lot of memories of the various bands that I had played in and the summer band camps that I was able to attend. I miss being a part of a band and playing great music. There were many songs played that I had played and it was great to see so many students still involved in the school band programs. Through out the evening, the band directors and teachers were thanked numerous times by the Director of Education, by the emcee and by the Band Parent Association President. The hard work that these teachers do is truly amazing. They are so committed to the program and to their students. Know having just completed my education degree I hope that I can share my passions with my own students just as I have seen these band directors do as well.

One of the guest directors of the honour band said something that stuck with me. She has been across Canada and has adjudicated many festivals and worked with many bands. She said that this band program that is in the Regina Catholic Schools is one of the best in not only the Province but in the Country. I agree with her. I remember when I was in band, our directors and teachers had high expectations of us and we played challenging music. We also worked hard and were able to achieve success which is evident if you walk into the band room at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School or any of the other band rooms in Regina. I have heard a lot of other bands perform and I must say, the program that Regina has is truly exceptional.

Unfortunately, I am sad when I hear that the system is changing the hours of band and choir rehearsals for the upcoming year for  both elementary and high school students. Nothing is official yet, but the band practices may not be after school for high school students and sectionals may not be for one period during the day. I do not know all of the changes, but in talking with some band teachers who have become friends of mine, they are worried about their programs. Band is a wonderful opportunity for students and playing a musical instrument is something that all students should be encouraged to do. I learned so much through my experiences not only musically but in terms of confidence,what I am able to do, and I have made long lasting friendships. I hope that the changes that occur next year do not impact the quality of our bands, but unfortunately, I think they will. I can only hope that students remain in band and that their teachers remain dedicated and committed to their programs and that excellence and the tradition of great music continues.

Music is exciting. It is thrilling to be sitting in a group of musicians playing (more or less) the same piece of music. You are part of a great, powerful, vibrant entity. And nothing beats the feeling you get when you’ve practiced a difficult section over and over and finally get it right. (yes, even on the wood block.) Music is important. It says things you heart can’t say any other way, and in a language everyone speaks. Music crosses borders, turns smiles into frowns, and vice versa. These observations are shared with a hope: that, when schools cut back on music classes, they really think about what they’re doing – and don’t take music for granted.– Dan Rather