Saturday, June 29, 2013

When I'm Gone

Anna June's day camp has been following the theme of Music Week this week. AJ, on her own, often makes up songs and dances constantly. She has even been known to sing in nonsense words, much to my chagrin. This unfettered melody making, though, could be the beginnings of a real songwriter (like her Granddaddy and great grandmother), so I try not to quash her creativity.

On Wednesday, she came home to tell me that there would be a talent show on Friday, and that she'd be singing a song with her friend Madeline. I had never heard of the song, and AJ didn't know many of the words, but with some of her input and some lucky internet searches, I found the song she was supposed to sing.

The name of it appears to be "The Cup Song" or "Cups" depending on the source.

Further searching revealed that there's a movie called Pitch Perfect, about a capella groups at a fictional college who compete with one another. The girl group loses their spark and holds auditions, and a young woman played by actress Anna Kendrick (also seen in Up in the Air with George Clooney), wows the group with her audition, singing this particular song and accompanying herself with a plastic cup. The clip is here.

Evidently, though, they've gone and made this into a regular pop single. I heard it on the radio, even. Here, the cup percussion is still in place, but there's certainly extra accompaniment. They made a real music video, with a story and everything. Go here to watch.

Side Note: I want to know how she can get biscuits to cook in such a short time.

After watching clips of the actress/singer performing it on David Letterman and an a capella group performing a cover of it, I thought AJ would be inspired. Instead, she melted down.

She's tired, y'all. Camp keeps her busy and then there's swim lessons afterwards. I talked to other parents I know who have kids in camp, and their kids are also suffering nightly tantrums from exhaustion. I hate it - she has so much fun, but she's so worn out.

We don't know if the prospect of performing itself was the problem, the fact that she didn't know the words yet, or what, but she freaked out multiple times. I seemed to be learning the song pretty fast (there's not much to it) but she didn't. I was worried.

In order to help her, I printed off the song lyrics, in big type at her request. She didn't like it. In the cover version, the girls (who appear to be underage) changed the lyric from "two bottles of whiskey for the way" to "Won't you come with me on the way." I told AJ that I liked the change. She's 5, and doesn't need to be singing about whiskey. AJ retorted that her singing partner would have to learn the change and it would confuse her. Fair enough, but it caused more tears. And AJ claimed she couldn't read my lyrics sheet, mostly because she can't read at top speed yet - my font had nothing to do with it (although this was her claim).

She selected an outfit that would be -in her mind - appropriate for the stage. A long, flowing skirt, outrageous tights and socks, and a polka dot t-shirt.  She stuffed it into her backpack to wear at curtain time. On the morning of the show, I asked if she was sure she wanted to wear her too-short shorts and the swing top that goes with it. Her resounding answer was yes, and she would change later.

They invited the parents to the talent show. I asked if she even wanted me to come, and she did.
So I went, and it was worse than I expected. They started 30 minutes late. There was an emcee, one of the counselors, who was nice and personable. A little boy was up first. He painstakingly went over and retrieved his snare drum, then its stand, from his case. Then, he set it up. Then, he adjusted it. Finally, he gave us a series of impressive drum rolls. Next on the list was AJ's friend from school, to perform a dance (a dance she had learned from her regular dance lessons). The emcee skipped right over her, and announced AJ, sort of. He began the introductions by saying how much fun the whole camp has been having trying to play the cups at lunch. But there was no kid to accompany them with the cups, as AJ had led me to believe. They gave us programs, but the names were broken awkwardly in the columns. Therefore, he announced the little girl singing with AJ by her last name, and she wasn't even there. She was the one who talked AJ into singing with her, and then got stage fright and didn't perform. The third person listed was a little boy (who I swear looked like a little girl), and his name was not announced. You can see how I got confused.

I love my daughter. I am very proud of her for standing up on stage in front of all her camp friends and their parents, to sing a song. Actually, the little girl boy she sang with had a nice voice. But it was a timid voice. Both of the girls kids quietly and shyly began. There was definitely sound system capability, but they assigned no microphone, except to the emcee. There was no accompaniment tape (which, if it's an a capella song in general, why would there be)? These two sweet little girls children (AJ slouching a little), tried to sing the song. But they completely forgot the words. They started over. They got slightly louder. I mouthed the words exaggeratedly from the audience, but they didn't really look too much - AJ did catch sight of me and follow my lead, but it was too little. Just like her outfit - she had not changed into her performing clothes.

Luckily, the whole thing lasted less than 2 minutes. God is merciful, for it was painful to watch. I say that with all honesty. I know my child can sing, but this came out in some sort of quiet monotone that I had never heard before. I didn't bring my phone. There was no video. This is a blessing, ladies and gentlemen.

The emcee called the next act, who had to assemble his own musical equipment. There were 17 more acts to go. My head started to spin a little. I went to the emcee, and I asked him what the deal was with skipping over AJ's friend. He told me that the little girl wanted to dance instead with a group of girls, going at the end. So at least I knew the score with that one. Her poor dad looked so confused, I had to intervene and determine if there was a problem (No, but he didn't say, "Oh, so-and-so will now dance at the end, and we're going to move on to AJ...") Anyway, since I was up, I took the opportunity to walk over to AJ and ask if it would be ok with her if I didn't stay for her friends. She said yes, so, after making sure she was OK and knew that I was proud of her, I bailed out. I couldn't help it. Because I didn't bring my cell phone, and I didn't exactly explain to anyone that I was leaving, except a post-it note on the door that said, "At the Rec Center." I was having a mild panic attack that while I had been sitting there, chatting with other parents, someone at work might need me. I did get back to some time-sensitive projects and emails, but in all honesty, with a little planning I could have stayed. I felt extremely rude, but I also feel it's rude to be 30 minutes late starting something.

Some interesting things did come out of this. I discussed the meaning of the song, trying to gauge AJ's comprehension. She told me that the lyrics were "like a warning." I agreed with her - it's almost like the singer is threatening her beloved that he'll miss her when she's gone. AJ interrupted me to say that she assumed the song was being sung to the girl's mother.  I told her that very well may be.

"You're gonna miss me by my hair. You're gonna miss me by my walk. What does that even mean?" I asked AJ. "Wouldn't we say that you're going to miss my hair, you're going to miss my walk?" But of course, according to a commenter on YouTube, which is an authoritative source, "Actually the song 'Miss Me When I'm Gone' was written by J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers back in 1937. Movies borrow songs from many artists and songwriters from the past. They just upbeat it or mix it up. No one is stupid here, you just didn't do your research." Maybe it is a 30's colloquialism.

We talked more about how it is both an invitation and a warning, like AJ said. Or a threat that's actually an invitation. Man, pop music is confusing.

I will probably not allow AJ to see the movie until she's older - it's PG-13. She has plenty of time to learn about all that stuff. Right now, I am glad that she thinks that the girl is singing to her mother that she will be missed when she is gone.


Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand this day-camp. Was this an impromptu talent show?? Is AJ mixed in w/ older kids?? I guess I just don't see the value in setting kids up for failure , or embarrassment...or mediocrity , for that matter.
A talent show needs ALOT if rehearsal, and individual attention to the participants, by the teachers / staff. This just sounds too pitiful. And, monumentally unfair to the kids too. And NOT FUN for anybody. I think they need some feed back on this from the parents.

but hey, that's just me.

Laura Gallitz said...

I just updated this post, because after talking to AJ, the kid she sang with was actually a boy. I assumed girl, because they didn't announce the boy's name, and the girl was the one of the trio that had talked AJ into performing anyway.

Yes, I agree it could use a lot of work. From what I understand, it was a lot of kids playing the instruments they had just had recitals for at the end of the school year. AJ even asked if she could take violin lessons...she was very excited by how cool her friends were.

Yes, AJ is mixed in with older kids. They take children ages 5-12. They break off into smaller groups for a lot of the day. This is very common.

The talent show was not on the week's agenda emailed to parents ahead of time, so in that sense, I guess it was impromptu. It was the first one they'd ever had. Hopefully, there were a lot of lessons learned. I think AJ really enjoyed it. She has no idea that her performance was less than ideal. She had fun and enjoyed watching the other kids play. Maybe by next year they'll set aside some time in the schedule to set up the chairs ahead of time, and to maybe have some kind of dress rehearsal with the kids that morning (or something)! I really don't mean to complain - the show probably got much, much better, but I had to leave.

Now that we know it's a thing, maybe we can be better prepared for next year, if they decide it's worth a repeat performance.