The other night my grandson and his parents treated me to supper at a family-oriented restaurant and a night of musical entertainment. As a farm family, we do not get out like this often, so I relished the opportunity. The performance was top-notch. The number of students involved impressed me as students were part of the pit orchestra, the stage crew and the sound team, as well as the singers and dancers. These youngsters gave it their all, even at the last performance.
Part of the fun of being in a musical is the camaraderie that builds between those on stage as well as those behind the scenes. The whole experience brought back memories.
While I was in high school we did musical productions, but never a complete musical. Our drama and music experiences did not take place together. There were class plays and music department productions.
Our musicals were done annually. Some students tried out to be dancers. Some were in the chorus. Of course, there was the band. The music teachers worked together. Although I tried out once to become one of the dancers, deep down I knew that I would not be chosen because I was already part of the chorus.
I accepted my fate and decided I could be sad or I could simply enjoy doing what I was best at. I chose the second choice. I loved to sing and that brought many opportunities. I was often paired with a male vocalist for a duet. It was truly a wonderful experience to harmonize. It seemed to come natural to me.
I learned to harmonize by singing along with the radio. While I did the dishes I belted out song after song as it came over the airwaves. I liked harmony. Most of my singing partners were upperclassmen and that was not too shabby either.
To this day I can sing many songs from the old Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. Some of the soundtracks I have on records (yes, the old vinyl type) and some I have as DVDs. There is something very special about the musicals that came out of the '40s and '50s. They have endured.
When there was nothing we particularly wanted to see on television, my husband and I would put an old musical on for an at-home night at the movies. We never did make it to a real movie while Dick was milking cows. One night we made plans only to find out when we arrived that the movie was a long one, so it started an hour earlier!
Back to the high school memories. A dedicated group of ladies took care of all of the costumes for the dancers. There were about 20 dancers and each required a different costume for each song. I know they saved and reused what they could, but it still was a lot of work.
The way our musicals worked was the dancers performed on an extension to the stage - out front. The band sat on stage, and the chorus was on risers on the stage.
We had a very dedicated band director. He found places for us to visit with our productions. I remember traveling to a small town on the Hudson River and a place in Indiana. We also made it to New York City. We raised funds to travel by pumping gas for a small business owner and washing cars. We held pizza sales and bake sales. The pizza sales were held in school. The mothers brought in the pizzas just before it was time for the sale.
When we left town we had three busloads of students and chaperones. It was time away from studies, but it was educational. I do not remember having to make up any work. We were representing our high school. Living in a small town brought many opportunities. Our chaperones saw to it that we behaved, but they also made sure that we had numerous opportunities for fun. I remember there were eight of us who shared adjoining rooms in one hotel. I also remember that one hotel was a dud. We found soiled linen and bugs so they moved all of us into homes in the community in a hurry.
Music is a lot of fun. I must say that musical experiences top my list of events that I remember. My experiences date back to standing around the old upright piano at my great-grandfather's to singing in church as well as many things in between the two. I feel fortunate to have the old music cabinet that used to be at great-grandpa's house. I retrieved music out of it often so that we could all sing. While the young folks sang, my grandfather was the audience.
Kudos go to those young people who performed ''Anything Goes'' the other night. They seemed to be having a wonderful time. I recognized some of the songs, but not all of them. The children probably had never heard them before they began to rehearse. My own children were familiar with some of the tunes.
We were always a musical family. For years my husband, my children and I sang at area churches. The little room that I now call my office was at one time the music room. We had a piano, an organ and two guitars. The youngsters learned to play the guitars by taking lessons at an independently owned music store in Warren. Since we were there every Friday evening, we made friends with the staff. When our dog got run over, one of the clerks found us a replacement from a community not far from where her parents lived. She brought the dog back for us. Things like this only happen in a small town with a close-knit community.
Do not discount local productions. We have abundance of wonderful local talent!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.