Memoir Piece - The Value of Rehearsal

This was going to be the shining moment of my Grade six year. I had been given the opportunity to sing at the youth club Christmas break up run by local church. The idea was that I had to choose a suitable song and practice it for the big night. I chose the sheet music and duly practiced the chosen song. My parents approved of my choice so that sealed matters.

To accompany me on piano was a church elder named George. George was a tall, gentle octogenarian with a mop of snow white hair. His voice was soothing in the same way that aloe-vera is soothing to sunburn. Before he spoke a smile would invade his face. Any public appearance meant that you would see him wearing the same, tired, blue suit. It was his church uniform, his strolling down the street uniform, his shopping at the supermarket uniform. It had been pressed and ironed so many times that it shone when the light caught it in certain directions. But the pleats in his pants were straight and beautifully formed. For a man who had witnessed so many summers he walked with a sureness that belied his age.

George also had the responsibility for playing the church organ for the last forty years. It was a role he took very seriously. You could say religiously. That organ was his without any argument. He made those pipes pop!

On the night of the breakup, I was announced and moved towards the stage. George was seated at the piano on the side of the stage; music sheet in place and ready to accompany me. As I began to sing I realized to my absolute horror that the piano was being played with such ferocity that it was effectively drowning out my voice. I felt defenseless as I had no microphone to help me overcome the din. George was thumping those keys like there was no tomorrow. Years of organ playing had equipped him to literally attack the keys. His large hands and strong fingers crashed down on that piano without restraint. It was Jerry Lee Lewis minus the theatrics. There was to be no tickling the ivories that night. I also suspect that George was a little deaf. He never looked up to see my pain

I just wanted the whole thing to end. The end of the song couldn’t come quickly enough. Getting off that stage became the goal. I couldn’t blame dear old George. He was doing what he had been trained to do. He did it well and he did it with gusto. Unfortunately, it drowned out the kid who was singing.

A valuable lesson was learnt that evening. The value of rehearsal. Things are less likely to go awry if you rehearse and this had not happened. My embarrassment was short lived though. Supper was served and all the assembled kids charged the food and conveniently forgot about the about the barely audible kid singer and George the thumping pianist.

I must have been more resilient than I imagined, as I kept on singing after that tragic episode. The experience of folk music, rock band, wedding songs were all to follow in time. All were brief, but they were memorable. Music remains a strong theme in my life to this day. George, bless him, played an unforgettable part of my musical history.


  1. I think too, that memories like this help us as teachers, remember to learn from the horrors in our lives.

  2. I agree with Bonnie, that these kinds of experiences help us to be better teachers. This story was told so well, Alan. I was right there with you, cringing through George's full-tilt performance. Makes me grateful for each of the ladies who accompanied my singing when I was a kid!

    (I still haven't had a chance to read through the rest of your slices, but don't be surprised when you find a whole slew of responses one of these days! I added you to my blogroll, I so enjoyed reading your pieces.)


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