Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Salzburg Connection

Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Estonia.
Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece.
Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic.
Russia, China, England, France.
Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong.
Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand.
Colombia, Brazil, Canada, U.S.

Sounds like one of the rhythmic chants so common in Orff teaching—and it could be. But it is also the names of many of the countries represented here in the meeting of the Orff Forum in Salzburg. These are many—but not all— of the places where the wildflower seed of this inspired pedagogy has been planted and taken root. Some of the leading people in each country are here to share their successes, their challenges, their questions, their solutions.

But for me, the meeting has another dimension. I walked into the room and saw so many old (20 years since I met them) and new friends and acquaintances, many of whom hosted me so graciously when I gave a workshop or course in their country. So instead of abstract countries, I saw:

Nanna, Malo, Soili, Tuuli
Gabriel, Andrea, Fatosh, Katerina
Werner, Uli, Malina, Jarka
Slava, Cao Li, Margaret, Erich,
Sataporn, Hao Su, Paul, May-Tan
Young jeon kim, Ukiko, Biddy, René
Astrid, Mayumi, Cathy, Karen

Colleagues James, Sofia and I left Verona on Sunday night in our tiny rented Fiat car. Somewhere around 1 in the morning, James (the official driver) was getting sleepy. Solution to stay awake? Think of and sing 100 rounds. We did it and then took turns reciting memorized poetry, both of which re-charged us enough to pull safely into Salzburg at 2:30 in the morning. Next morning, up bright and early to begin the first round of meetings, meet the 17 kids from our school at the airport, have an outdoor dinner in the Sternbrau and watch them deal with some 25 hours of plane travel without sleep—ie, continue to hang out and run around. We all forgot about July 4th and Louis Armstrong’s birthday (mythologically speaking, July 4th, 1900) and I had no way to wish Chester happy 17th birthday. Which didn’t matter to him, since he’s my cat.

Next morning, a rehearsal in the Youth Hostel where we’re staying. One month without meeting and they remembered every nuance of our opening body percussion piece. Then off to the Schloss Fortress on top of the hill in downtown Salzburg. We performed spontaneously there for people eating lunch and people seemed mildly interested, but no coins came showering our way. I needed to bike to the next round of Forum meetings while the kids went swimming, both in intermittent downpours. Welcome to Salzburg!

In our fantasy, our students would be fascinated by the details of the Schloss architecture and history and indeed, they were mildly interested in both. But of course, the highlight was the Funicular ride up and down and the promise of the swimming pool. As I said in some recent blogs, kids have their priorities straight.

After dinner, we went to the Marionette Show, which most commonly shows The Magic Flute. But tonight was The Sound of Music and the production was entertaining, intriguing, funny and at times, mesmerizing—“How did they do that?” Marionettes have the advantage of kicking up their heels during a number and continuing to hover and fly through the air, a skill the puppeteers took advantage of many times. We got a quick backstage tour and demonstration after the show and it indeed was impressive to watch the effect of a simple (yet, oh so complex— a three-year training) manipulation of strings. Inside the Orff Institute at our Forum meetings, we’re discussing how creativity and imagination are bread and water to the human spirit, while outside the room, people are devoting huge portions of their time to pulling strings to give 90 minutes of exercise to our pleasure and fancy. In the various meetings. there is always a sigh of discouragement about how little understanding and support the official world of Universities and media and politicians give to our endeavors to release and train the imaginations of children. And yet, we continue to do our work any which way we can and children all around the world are refreshed.

Like our 17 kids. Not only do they get the pleasure of learning, creating, playing and performing some great music and dance, but they get to go to Salzburg to do it!

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