Well, we did it. We bussed 2 coachloads of over excited children up to the retirement home and got them up the stairs to the first floor with the remaining stage accessories - and fortunately without any accidents despite the pushing and shoving. I was somewhere around the middle of the queue with a helpful little boy giving me a hand with a heavy bag. By the time I got into the communal room there was absolute chaos. Children were taking off their outdoor gear and leaving coats and jackets all over the floor and one of my colleagues and a mother who had come to help were putting out the stools for the choir and the children were all trying to grab a seat. What everyone had forgotten was that I have had the choir seated in five lines, with everyone knowing exactly their place – so that those involved in the mime could exit and enter the choir without pushing and that the readers would know exactly where the next person to need the microphone would be. When we did it at school I had them lined up in an adjacent classroom and when everything was in place they filed in in an orderly fashion. The head teacher got panicky and said it didn’t matter how they sat and I said it did and I also needed to be able to get to and from my music stand and the two CD players without walking over Mary and Joseph! It was difficult for me to do my bossy boots Aquarelle act with other teachers making such a mess of the preparations but in the end that was what I resorted to and I finally got some sort of order and calm. Then I sorted my own music, flute and access to everything.
Our audience was about 60 strong. Some of them sat in armchairs but very many were in wheelchairs. I should say at this point how grateful I am to Splog and Hedgehog who had warned me that we might not get much overt response. I knew what not to expect and that I must remember that lack of response doesn’t mean lack of appreciation with this kind of audience. I was glad to be forewarned. Most of the residents didn’t seem very responsive but there were some smiles and that made it worth it.
Once the muddle was over we got started and somehow I suddenly found a great surge of energy. I’ve no idea where it came from – maybe children are the best anti-depressants- but the whole thing just came to life. It went well, no hitches and most the choir watched me most of the time. We had a short prayer session led by the parish priest and he suggested that the audience should applaud the children which they did. The clearing up was slightly less chaotic than the setting up and as far as I can tell we managed not to forget anything. The staff of the home gave the children a slice of cake and a glass of orange juice and when we left there was a lot of waving from the children and the residents.
Then of course, the bombshell I thought might fall - did. “You will come back next Christmas, won’t you?” Well I have now seen what kind of audience we have, what space we have. And incidentally I found that if only they had shown me, there is a wide corridor leading to the canteen where we could have parked the children and their outdoor gear in an orderly fashion while setting up the scene. I also know that if we have to do the Celebration for two very different audiences next year I am going to have to make some adjustments to the kind of script I write and the way I present the work to the audience. It was the head teacher who presented it this time and I think I have learnt what not to do! Actually I have, in the end, learnt quite a lot from this experience; I am no longer depressed but I am knackered and am now going to bed! ‘Night everyone and thanks again for all the support - those vibes were a great help!