Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Triumph!!

For anyone wondering when our kids were finally going to perform after all this build-up, it was today. In the Salzburg Mozarteum, Theater Solitar. On July 10. Appropriately enough, Carl Orff’s birthday. Standing room only in the theater—at 9 am in the morning. Our reputation preceded us and people came with high expectations. And may I say they were exceeded?

From the first slap on the body to the last note on the xylophones, the energy in that room was so charged we could have generated our own electricity. And we did. In fact, I was already so moved by the third piece that when I went to play the triangle for our Brazilian piece, my hand shook so much from the emotions coursing through my body that I couldn’t play my part. It just shook uncontrollably. One of the kids later said I was playing some interesting 32nd notes, while another was looking at me like “Hello, Doug?! What is going on here?” I did recover, but there were several moments when I was on the side watching the kids with my chest heaving in sobs and sighs. How can I talk about it? You just had to be there.

When the last note died out, the audience leaped to their feet in one motion and 17 kids and four teachers held hands on the stage with thunderous applause vibrating through our bodies. What began as a thought last Summer, a working dream last Fall, a project that began rehearsals in Winter and a coherent concert that took shape slowly over the Spring had now reached its culminating moment and it was every bit as glorious as we all had imagined. More importantly, every moment of the preparation over all those long months was as fun and satisfying as the final realization. As I said to the audience after the concert: 
“My philosophy of music education is to create the kind of musicians you would like to play with as they mature. And the kind of human beings you’d like to hang out with. These kids, many of whom I have known since they were three years old, have been both. It could not have been more of a privilege and pleasure.”

Several comments from the folks in the audience:

The first few pieces were stunning and then each piece after that, just as good. There was never a moment when the energy sagged or my attention wandered.

• I have never witnessed a concert with children as extraordinary as this—or any concert, for that matter!

• (Sincere look in the eyes and one minute later:) Wow! (and a pause) Wow.

During _________, I was weeping. (Many different moments for different people)

• The joy! The communication! The natural quality! The dance! The music!!

• And from Frau Liselotte Orff, Carl Orff’s widow (now 80 years old):
“Carl would have loved this.”

There are things in this life that you just have to be there to understand, things that cannot be captured by words, or sound recordings or video. The vibrations in the air are real and palpable and have to be felt viscerally, smelled and tasted. And yet, I try to give a sense of it with words, a parent took a video and it was professionally videotaped, so perhaps those interested can get a taste. But better to invite us to perform for your venue. We’re available for bookings and I say that with my tongue only partly in my cheek.

Fact is, I’ll miss walking with 17 kids through downtown Salzburg playing The Cookie Jar, singing The Rice Krispies song or free-style rapping. Really. And I’ll certainly miss playing music with them. It just could not have been a better eight days—or eight months. And not quite over yet. Tomorrow, we go by train to Traunstein to visit The Carl Orff School and perform part of our program for the kids there. And have them play for us. Then, weather permitting, a swim in the Chiemsee lake and back for our final dinner.

For those curious about the program, I include it below. Meanwhile, with one hand saying goodbye to the kids, the other starts tomorrow morning with a six-day summer course at The Orff Institut, with 120 new teachers from Korea, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus—in fact, 31 countries represented in all. I better plan tomorrow’s class!



Musical Directors: Sofía López-Ibor, James Harding, Doug Goodkin



  1. Body Percussion/Freedom—This composition by Doug combines the work of Keith Terry, African-American Steppin’ and South African Gumboot Dancing (the latter choreographed by Jack Lestrada as taught by Janice Evans). Freedom is a South African song.

  1. The Butterfly (Ireland)—This 9/8 slip-jig featuring harp and violin.

  1. Sto Mi E Milo/ Bucemis (Bulgaria)—A song in 7/8 followed by a dance piece in 15/16, featuring the gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe. 

4.   Areia/ Sindo Lele (Brazil) A Coco dance-rhythm song about the sea-sand, then a
            cocoa-harvesting song in the Lydian mode. 

       5.  Quitiplas/ Yaayaakole (Venezuela/ Ghana)— Bamboo tube drumming and singing
       followed by a Dagara xylophone (gyil) piece. 

6.  Movement Studies—These movement studies created by the students are
    accompanied by an arrangement of "eel bones," the traditional opening patterns of
    Balinese shadow puppet theater. 

       7.  Vivaldi- A percussion arrangement of the first movement of Vivaldi's Concerto in
    C Major for Mandolin accompanies an original film featuring animated and
    shadow images by the performers. 

  1. Kuus Kuus  —This haunting lullaby was composed by the Estonian composer Arvo Part.
  1. Sticks/ Jo-Jo—An original stick piece by Sofia followed by a Miles Davis tune, featuring hip-hop dancing and trumpet.
  1. Dough-Re-Mi—An obscure Lionel Hampton tune.
  1. Soul Sauce—A Dizzy Gillespie Latin-jazz composition made famous by Cal Tjader. 
  1. Malambo (Argentina)—We close with this spirited zapateado rhythm from La Pampa in Argentina.

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