Saturday, November 03, 2007

11/4/07 Chorus Contest

It was happening all over again. The tension, the relentless practice. After the sports festival, then the speech contest, I wasn't real surprised when I learned that there was a class chorus contest approaching. I didn't really need to be told that something was coming up. I could hear singing at least once a day for about the last week. The kids practice at lunch, maybe after school. Groups of two or three students will sing to each other as they walk through the halls. On occasion I can see a group of them singing in the courtyard formed by the U shape created by the school buildings. Each homeroom class has their own conductor as well as a pianist. Each class picked a song some time ago and now they were all preparing for battle.

I wonder if the whole year will be like this, swinging from one big event or competition to the next. I suppose it does keep everyone working with a short term goal in sight. Its entertaining for me to watch everyone in their toils, but I think that if I was the one toiling I might be about sick of competing by this point.

I wasn't completely without the ability to participate, though. Every morning in the teachers office, for 10 or 20 minutes before the first homeroom period, anyone who has an announcement stands up and yammers about it, sometimes at length. They talk fast and in fairly polite word forms, which makes them so hard for me to listen to that I've long ago given up on it. On top of this, we have been practicing the song that the teachers will give at the end of all of the students' performances. Its entitled kaze ni naritai, literally: "I want to be the wind". The sheet music handed to me is in one of the Japanese alphabets that I know, so I was proud of myself for being able to read the characters fast enough to correctly sing the song with the other teachers.

On the day of the contest, all of the students were in their nicest uniforms(they have at least two sets of uniforms, once nice and the other more like a track suit). The teachers all did one last practice of our song, complete with keyboard and drum accompaniment. Then the buses started arriving on the gravel field. This event would be at the shimin kaikan, one of two large meeting halls where just about every meeting of any size in town is held.

The buses awaiting their cargo of rowdy students. These buses had to make two trips to move everyone. The bus ride itself amused me, as it was exactly like a bus full of students in the US. The bus driver would yell at the kids when they would stand up in back or if they took a drink of a soda they had smuggled on board.

Before the battle began, their was the obligatory singing of the school song. I have heard this a couple of times now and wanted to record it, and this time I was prepared.

School song. Booyah!

Then came the contest. It was very hard for me to stay awake during the whole thing. The concert hall was dark, and the children relentlessly sang song after song that I couldn't understand. I took advantage of every intermission just to walk around and stay alert.

One of the classes singing their little hearts out.

At last came the announcement and presentation of the awards. I was a bit freaked out about how serious everyone was taking it. A group of third year students seated behind me was especially dramatic about the whole thing, already crying before the winner was even announced. Winners jumped like they had won the lottery, losers cried like someone had died. The bus ride back was quite different, as several of the girls were still crying softly into their Lilo and Stitch hand towels. What a day.

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